Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa. | NACHO DOCE


Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will leave his job on Tuesday to run for elections scheduled in Catalonia on Feb. 14 to try and win the regional government away from pro-independence parties.

"Salvador Illa starts today his last 24 hours at the helm of the ministry," the office of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a statement. "Tomorrow Tuesday will be his last cabinet meeting and his replacement will be disclosed."
A source close to the government pointed to Regional Policy Minister Carolina Darias as the most likely candidate to take over the position.

In her current role, Darias has worked closely with Illa and overseen weekly summits of regional health chiefs to coordinate the coronavirus response.
The new minister's first task will be tackling a rampaging third wave of infection that has sent Spain's 14-day incidence of the virus spiralling to 829 cases per 100,000 people from 263 cases a month ago.

Desperate to control the spread, some regional authorities have substantially stepped up their response after months of incremental tightening.
Valencia imposed some of the country's toughest measures yet, limiting people to mixing only with members of their household at home and banning groups of more than two from socialising outdoors.

Even Madrid, whose regional government has been staunchly opposed to any measures that hurt business, will on Monday bring forward a night curfew to 10 pm and said it would deploy drones and extra police patrols to enforce compliance.

Opinion polls have been split on the Catalonia election. But some, including one by the Centre for Sociological Studies (CIS), have shown Illa's Socialists, now the fourth-largest party in the regional parliament, on track to win the biggest share of the vote in the Feb. 14 election.
That would be a major change in a region currently led by pro-independence parties.