Spain's PM Pedro Sanchez spoke to parliament yesterday. | Reuters - SERGIO PEREZ


Spanish families will be able to celebrate Christmas together, the prime minister said today before meeting regional leaders to discuss ways of containing the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

With nearly 80% of its population vaccinated and a booster programme gathering pace, Spain was largely spared the rampant wave of infections that led several northern European countries to toughen curbs in the autumn.

But the arrival of Omicron has sent numbers skyrocketing, with a record of nearly 50,000 new infections on Tuesday, though hospital admissions and intensive-care cases remain fairly low compared to previous COVID-19 waves.

"Don't worry, families will be able to celebrate Christmas," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told parliament.

"Spain has resisted, it has not given up and it is moving forward."

Omicron accounts for some 47% of total Spanish infections, according to data released on Tuesday, soaring from just 3% the week before.

Sanchez called a meeting of regional leaders, responsible for their own health policy under Spain's highly devolved administrative system, in an effort to set a coordinated approach to tackling the surge.

However, stark political differences between them makes a national-level accord on anything but the most basic restrictions unlikely.

In Catalonia, where intensive-care occupation is double the national average at 30%, the left-wing administration ordered the closure of night clubs, set limits on groups and sought court approval for a night curfew - the toughest measure available without a national state of emergency.

By contrast, Madrid's leader, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, who won a landslide election in spring after promising light-touch restrictions, has vowed to keep the hospitality sector open whatever happens.