OVIEDO, Spain

After weeks of a steady downward trend in new coronavirus infections, Spain saw a strong uptick in new cases on Friday.

The Health Ministry reported 10,519 new infections – the highest daily surge since Nov. 27. The figure is up around 2,500 from Thursday and 1,800 from the previous Friday.

Spain’s chief epidemiologist warned that although Spain has cut its coronavirus infection rate in half since early November, the country remains in “a high-risk situation.”

“We are not in a position to feel relaxed, despite improvements. Next week we’ll begin to see the effects of the recent long weekend, and from there we’ll be able to evaluate the risk that the Christmas holidays may bring,” Fernando Simon told a press conference on Thursday.

In much of Spain, both Monday and Tuesday were public holidays.

Yet with Christmas just two weeks away, the country is gearing up to relax restrictions around curfews, gatherings, and travel for the holiday season.

Next week, ski resorts across the country are set to begin operating. The region of Asturias will also become the last region to roll back hospitality sector closures, opening bars and restaurants on Monday.

The recent drop in infections has helped ease pressure on Spanish hospitals. Nearly 11,700 active COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, down from above 21,000 in mid-November.

Intensive care unit occupation remains high, however, with 22% of all available units currently being used to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

Spain’s Health Ministry reported another 280 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total death toll to 47,624.

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