As COVID wards fill again, Spanish doctor warns young they’re vulnerable

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A week ago, the COVID-19 hospital ward in Barcelona where doctor Inmaculada Lopez Montesinos works had just a few patients.

Now it is full and the Hospital del Mar has opened two extra floors for such patients as a surge in infection driven by the more contagious Delta variant rips through Spain’s mostly younger, unvaccinated population.

Although mortality is much lower than in earlier waves of the pandemic, Lopez Montesinos said hospitals like hers were under growing pressure. She attributes this sudden jump in cases to a lifting of restrictions across Spain over the past few months, a rise in tourism and students’ summer break.

“All this has been an explosive cocktail that has led us to this fifth wave that has surprised us in mid-July,” the 34-year-old told Reuters, pleading for people to avoid crowds, keep social interactions to a minimum and use face masks.

Facing Spain’s highest 14-day infection rate of 1,068 cases per 100,000 people, more than double the national average, regional authorities in Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, said on Wednesday they would reimpose a curfew on 158 municipalities.

Lopez Montesinos said the typical patient she was seeing was aged 40 or below, did not have pre-existing conditions and was either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

The doctor is not the only one with the words of warning.

Wearing an oxygen mask, Cesar Lopez, a 35-year-old Barcelona businessman, said that before being admitted to the hospital two weeks ago he felt so bad he even thought of leaving a farewell note to his family.

“I would like to tell you that this is something very serious … I also thought that it could be just a cold or a flu but you have to take this really seriously, get vaccinated, think about others,” he said.

“Unfortunately there will be lots of people who won’t be able to tell this tale.

Photo: Two paramedics at the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona, Barcelona, Spain. EPA-EFE/Enric Fontcuberta”