Face Masks Back On As Spain Grapples Winter Tridemic

As Spain faces a “tridemic” combination of Covid-19, winter flu and other respiratory illnesses, the government has ordered that the wearing of masks is obligatory in all hospitals and health centres from today 10th January.

Spain has been badly affected as hospitals struggle to cope with an influx of patients, which saw  an increase in flu cases by 75 % in the final week of 2023, according to data from the Carlos III Health Institute.

Figures from the Spanish Health Ministry show that nearly half of all flu tests came back positive for Covid-19 in the last week of December compared to 27% the previous week which has led to a surge of hospital admissions, especially among elderly people.

Pascual Pinera, vice president of Spain’s emergency medicine society (SEMES), told the EFE news agency that emergency rooms are already saturated, and that the worst is yet to come.

“Right now, we are suffering the consequences of social interaction from Christmas. In the next week, we’ll see the results of New Year’s Eve. Then, in the third week of January, infections should reach their peak after the Three Kings’ Day celebrations and the return to classrooms,” Pinera said.

In Madrid´s La Paz Hospital in Madrid, the healthcare union has complained that 105 patients are waiting in beds placed in hallways to be admitted. It warned that the situation could become disastrous in the case of fires or the need to evacuate, and say it is a symptom of the “general deterioration of Madrid’s public health system.”

Monica Garcia, Spanish Health Minister

While the seasonal pattern of viral infections is to be expected, Pinera said there are 35% more patients in Spanish emergency rooms this year than last.

The new measures were agreed by the ministry and regional health authorities from Spain´s 17 autonomous communities.

The Spanish Health Minister, Mónica García stressed the importance of masks “to protect above all health centres and hospitals, to protect patients as much as healthcare professionals.”

The wearing of masks is ‘a measure that is effective, common sense, that is backed by scientific evidence and that is welcomed by the general population’, she said.

García had already expressed her support for reinstating mandatory masks in healthcare facilities in a statement last week, highlighting that the regions of Valencia and Catalonia had already announced their intention to require masks for healthcare workers and patients.

Experts are reminding people that it is not too late to get their vaccines, with the flu vaccine campaign open until the end of January.



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