Spain surpasses 4 million coronavirus cases since pandemic began

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain surpassed 4 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began on Tuesday after adding 43,960 new cases, as the more contagious Delta variant drives a surge of infections among unvaccinated young people.

The nationwide 14-day infection rate reached nearly 437 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, up from 368 cases a day earlier, health ministry data showed. Among 20 to 29-year-olds, that figure was 1,421 per 100,000.

“With the end of the school year, increased mobility, greater social interaction and super-spreader events, the cumulative incidence curve has risen again,” Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Tuesday.

Cases began to surge again in the middle of June after a long decline, propelled by the Delta variant and more socializing among younger groups.

Although infection numbers have been rising steadily, daily deaths remain low, with the new cases primarily reported among younger, unvaccinated people who are less likely to fall seriously ill.

The country reported 13 new fatalities on Tuesday, bringing the total death toll total to 81,033. Darias said the current pressure on the country’s health system was nothing like it was in previous waves of the pandemic.

Some hard-hit Spanish regions have introduced new rules such as night-time curfews to tackle the surge.

The Catalan regional government said all activities would have to shut at 12:30 a.m. and eating or drinking in public areas would be banned. The measures are pending court approval.

“The most important thing at the moment is to contain the spread of the virus, which will require regional measures,” Darias said.

Spain’s tourism continues to be in a tight spot, with many businesses struggling to make ends meet. The same is happening across the border in Portugal, where the variant is responsible for all cases in the popular Algarve region.

(Reporting by Andrei Khalip and Catarina Demony; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Portugal orders COVID test, vaccination proof at hotel check-in

y Catarina Demony and Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) -Holidaymakers in Portugal will be required to show a negative COVID-19 test, a vaccination certificate or proof of recovery to stay in hotels or other holiday accommodation, the government announced on Thursday, as infections continue to rise.

Portugal’s new daily case numbers have been rising steadily in recent weeks, returning to levels last seen in February when the country was under a strict lockdown. Nearly 90% of cases are of the more infectious Delta variant.

As the Delta variant spreads, the country is struggling to salvage the usually busy summer season.

Negative tests, vaccination certificates or proof of recovery will also be required to eat indoors at restaurants in 60 high-risk municipalities, including Lisbon and the city of Porto, on Friday evenings and at the weekend.

“For a long time, the only measure we had to our disposal was limiting economic activity,” said Cabinet Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva. “With the digital certificate, and the more frequent availability of tests, we have other ways of guaranteeing security.”

Holidaymakers and restaurant customers can use the EU digital COVID-19 certificate. Rapid antigen tests will also be valid, the minister said, and can be provided by hotels at check-in. The new rules come into force on Saturday.

Children under 12 accompanied by a parent or guardian are exempt.

Portugal’s restaurant association said “there were already too many rules and restrictions” which risk driving customers away.

“This could destroy the ray of hope for many business people,” it said.

Customers and businesses who break the rules risk being fined, up to 500 and 10,000 euros respectively.

The measure will allow restaurants to reopen for dinner on Saturday and Sunday in high-risk areas, where they were forced to shut earlier for the two previous weekends.

A night-time curfew, already in place 45 municipalities, will be extended to a further 15 municipalities, including Faro, the main city in the popular southern Algarve.

Portugal, population 10 million, reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 899,295.

Cases started to gradually increase after Portugal opened to visitors from the EU and Britain in mid-May. But daily deaths remain well below February levels with new cases primarily reported among younger, unvaccinated people.

(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Victoria Waldersee and Sergio Goncalves; Additional reporting by Patricia Vicente Rua; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Giles Elgood)