Nurses conduct PCR swab tests on residents of the Basque town of Elorrio during mass testing | VINCENT WEST


Spain's coronavirus infection rate edged up on Tuesday, highlighting concerns that a long decline that last week carried it to its lowest level since August is in danger of reversing.

When the infection rate, which is measured over the preceding 14 days, stopped its decline last week, Health Minister Carolina Darias warned that an uptick in cases in some regions, including Madrid and Catalonia, could mean a trend change, calling for maximum caution "to avoid a fourth wave".

The rate rose on Tuesday to 129.6 per 100,000 people from 128.7 on Monday, the Health Ministry said.

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It had fallen from a peak of nearly 900 at the end of January.

The ministry also reported 5,516 new cases, bringing the country's overall tally to 3.23 million. The death toll rose by 201 to 73,744.

Unlike some other European nations, Spain held off imposing nationwide stay-at-home orders since late 2020. Regional authorities have instead rolled out a patchwork of curfews and limits on business opening hours and social gatherings.

Domestic travel remains restricted, but the government said earlier on Tuesday it was easing a ban on travel from Britain, three months after suspending flights for all but Spanish nationals and residents over concerns about a more contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK.