Young people wait to take a voluntary antigen test for the coronavirus disease | SUSANA VERA


Spain's health minister warned on Wednesday that young people can develop severe cases of COVID-19 and asked for their cooperation in taming an infection rate that has more than doubled in a week as the Delta variant tears through unvaccinated younger adults.

"One in every 100 cases in 20 to 24-year-olds is admitted to hospital," Carolina Darias told a news conference on Wednesday, adding that the majority of recent outbreaks were linked to end-of-term student parties.

"Interactions between young people are is very important to ask them for responsibility but not to hold them responsible," she said.

The national infection rate as measured over the past 14 days soared to 252 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from 117.2 a week ago, ministry data showed, putting the country back above the 250-case extreme risk threshold.

Among 20 to 29-year-olds that figure climbed to 814 cases per 100,000, jumping by nearly 100 since Tuesday.

Other European countries, such as Germany and France, have begun vaccinating all adults but Spain is still working through age groups, meaning that some 89% of people over 40 have had at least one shot, compared with 14% of 20 to 29-year-olds.

After more than a year of lockdowns, travel bans and limited options for socialising, some Spanish youth are fed up and feel they are being unfairly blamed for the surge.

"We young people are the ones who party the most, and that's why the focus is put on us, but we are also a little tired because we are not the only ones who get things wrong," said 20-year-old Pablo Coca on holiday in Pamplona.

Scrambling to bring the contagion under control, the northeastern region of Catalonia will shut down nightclubs from Friday just weeks after opening them.

Though Darias encouraged regions to limit nightlife activities as they saw fit, she ruled out a return to reinstating night curfews.

"It's not on the table," she said, adding that her administration had pledged to send 5 million rapid antigen tests to boost screening efforts and offered military personnel to help with contact tracing.