OVIEDO, Spain

New coronavirus infections in Spain dropped to just below 30,000 on Thursday, as Catalonia announced one of Spain’s first moves toward relaxing measures after the third wave.

“Although the trend is positive, the situation is still very, very bad,” warned Spain’s chief epidemiologist Fernando Simon.

“Many hospitals are unable to provide traditional services, intensive care units especially are basically fully dedicated to taking care of COVID-19 patients.”

Nationwide, 44% of Spain’s intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. In La Rioja, the hardest-hit area, three out of every four intensive care units are being used to treat patients with the infectious disease.

The Health Ministry reported another 432 coronavirus deaths Thursday, bringing Spain’s official death toll to 60,802.

Optimistic about the improving situation, Catalan officials announced that anti-COVID-19 measures will be relaxed from Monday. That means gyms will be able to reopen for the first time in weeks, while bars and restaurants will be able to stay open slightly longer – until 4.30 p.m.

This is one of Spain’s first tepid steps to regaining normality since measures were relaxed over the Christmas holiday season and the ensuing third wave put hospitals in crisis mode. Elsewhere, other regions and municipalities are still tightening measures.

Spain has administered 1.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – 84% of all doses received – and 586,000 people have received the full two doses.

The country will receive new shipments of vaccines on Monday, by which time it should have administered its entire supply.

A Spanish medical commission is still mulling whether to administer the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine to people older than 65.

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