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Spain fears second wave of COVID-19

Infections hitting farm workers, young people

SANT SADURNI D’ANOIA, Spain — Like most Spaniards, Emma Gaya thought the worst of the pandemic was behind her.

Spain’s government had ended a three-month lockdown after a COVID-19 onslaught that claimed at least 28,400 lives in the European Union nation. To kickstart its stalled economy, Spaniards were encouraged to cautiously resume their lives under a “new normality” based on wearing face masks, washing hands and social distancing.

The respite didn’t last long.

Outbreaks among farm workers and young people desperate to resume socializing after being cooped up have spread across northern Spain, spawning what some health officials fear could be the start of a dreaded “second wave” of infections.

“It pains me to think that we could be right back where we were,” Gaya said after getting tested for coronavirus at her local health clinic in Sant Sadurni D’Anoia, a village near Barcelona. She came in because she had a fever, one of the typical symptoms of COVID-19, along with a dry cough and the loss of a sense of smell.

“I think we had done things well. Now I don’t know if we are doing it well at all. I’m not sure at what point we are safe,” Gaya said.

On June 22, the day after Spain ended a national state of emergency and restored free movement around the country, the health ministry registered 125 new cases in 24 hours. Six weeks later, the daily count has jumped, hitting 1,525 on Friday.

Spain is leading Western Europe’s major countries with an average of 60 coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants. While the country’s south and the Canary and Balearic Islands remain in good shape, the regions of Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia have registered more than 120 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a 14-day period, making Spain’s northeast the biggest European hot spot along with parts of Romania, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

In contrast to the darkest weeks of March and April, when the virus ripped through Spain’s elderly in nursing homes and pushed the country’s hospitals to the breaking point, the pressure is now on Spain’s neighborhood health clinics. They are trying to screen and isolate the new infections, which are taking place mostly among the young, who in Spain and countries across the world are ignoring social distancing, and the middle-aged.

The average age of a virus patient in Spain has fallen from 63 in the spring to 45 now and “the pressure on the health system is low,” said Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa.

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