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Barcelona's hospitals coping despite COVID-19 rebound, says doctor

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Bathers enjoy the beach in Cadiz, south of Spain, on Friday, July 24, 2020.
Bathers enjoy the beach in Cadiz, south of Spain, on Friday, July 24, 2020.   -   Copyright  Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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Health officials in the Spanish region of Catalonia are seeing a worrisome rise in cases of COVID-19, but Barcelona's hospitals are very far from being overwhelmed, one senior local doctor told Euronews.

"We're starting to see cases going up, but the absolute numbers are much smaller than before," said Roger Paredes, the infectious disease section chief at Germans Trias Hospital in Badalona, a coastal city and tourist hotspot just outside the Catalan capital.

"It's worrying because it's going up, but we're still able to control everything," he told Euronews, noting that his hospital only had two COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit and that new treatments were now able to cure them and send them home faster.

"So at this point, there is no collapse at all in the hospital," he said.

Several European countries have started warning their citizens not to visit Spain after a spike in infections in its northeast regions of Catalonia and Aragon.

Local authorities have already tightened lockdown restrictions in Barcelona, in a rural area around Lleida and in Zaragoza that were relaxed only a month ago. Catalan authorities even ordered a shutdown of all nightclubs and discos for two weeks across the region.

Spain reported over 900 new daily infections on Thursday and Friday as authorities warned that the country, which lost more than 28,000 lives to COVID-19, may already be facing the start of a second wave of infections.

But at the Germans Trias Hospital in Badalona, Paredes says things are looking different this time around. He’s hopeful that a second wave – if there is one – may not be as big as the first one.

"Most people are wearing masks and are behaving pretty well," he said. "I think that's the reason why we have not had an explosion of cases because wearing masks is very important to cut the transmission."

Over-reaction?

Europe's largest holiday company TUI said on Sunday it was cancelling all flights to mainland Spain until August 9, after the UK imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travellers returning from Spain.

Spain's Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya has been trying to mitigate the damage, telling reporters that Spain is safe for tourists.

"Like other European countries, Spain has new outbreaks. That's not unusual. What is most important is that Spain is making great efforts to control these outbreaks," she said on Sunday.

The latest travel warnings deal a fresh blow to the country's already ravaged tourist season. And the Spanish government has been negotiating with the UK to exempt the Balearic and Canary Islands – where infection rates are much lower – from the new quarantine rule.

"I think we are at a point in which we are trying to control these initial bursts, and I can understand how countries want to stay on the safe side," said Paredes, of Badalona hospital.

"We need to find the right balance," Paredes said, "because the coronavirus will be with us for many years, so we have to learn how to live with it."

Watch highlights of the interview in the video player above.