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A woman with her dog in Pamplona, Spain, during a protest Sunday against the Spanish government's actions during the pandemic. Photo: Elsa A Bravo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The number of coronavirus cases in Spain on Monday surpassed 500,000, after the country confirmed some 26,000 new infections over the weekend — and the U.K. and France are also reporting surges.

Why it matters: Spain is the first country in Western Europe to surpass half a million COVID-19 cases. There is growing concern that Europe is experiencing a second wave of infections, with cases surging over the summer.

Driving the news: As Spanish children prepare to return to school after six months away from classes following coronavirus restrictions, the country has reported 49,716 new novel coronavirus cases in the past week, mostly in Madrid, the Guardian notes.

The U.K. confirmed on Sunday 2,988 new cases — the most since May — and on Monday, the health department reported a further 2,948 infections.

  • England's deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said Brits had "relaxed too much" over the summer and they could expect "a bumpy ride over the next few months" unless people started taking the virus seriously again, per the BBC.

France reported Friday a record 8,975 new cases. The previous daily record of 7,578 infections was set on March 31, when the country launched a major lockdown, Reuters notes.

  • Since Friday, 22 schools have closed, as the country reported a further 8,550 additional cases on Saturday and another 7,071 infections Sunday, France 24 reports

What they're saying: "Where case numbers rise initially in the younger parts of the population they do in turn filter through and start to give elevated rates of disease and hospital admissions in the older age groups, and we know that then becomes a serious public health problem," Van-Tam said, addressing the surge in Europe, per the BBC.

  • "The fact that 17- to 21-year-olds are not becoming ill means they are lucky, but they also forget because the disease is not severe for them that they are potent spreaders."

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Dec 16, 2020 - Health

How mass rapid tests could help curb the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vastly expanded approval and distribution of rapid, at-home tests represents a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19 — and just possibly, the future of disease diagnostics.

Why it matters: Vaccines will take time to arrest the spread of the coronavirus — even without problems around distribution and acceptance. Some experts believe mass rapid testing could quickly identify who is really at risk of spreading COVID-19 and turn around the out-of-control pandemic in the U.S.

Emails show former Trump health appointee advocated herd immunity strategy

HHS Secretary Alex Azar with President Trump at the White House on Nov. 20. Photo: Mangel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A former senior Health and Human Services adviser advocated this summer to let young and middle-aged Americans become infected with COVID-19 in order to develop "herd immunity," according to emails released Wednesday by the House committee overseeing the federal government's coronavirus response.

Why it matters: Without a vaccine, achieving herd immunity — in which widespread outbreaks are prevented because enough people in a community are immune to a disease — would result in widespread fatalities and likely overwhelm health systems.

Dec 17, 2020 - Health

Biden set to take coronavirus vaccine in public next week

President-elect Biden during a Dec. 11 event in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Biden plans to take the COVID-19 vaccine in public and he could receive a dose as early as next week, his transition team confirmed to Axios Wednesday.

Details: "I don't want to get ahead of the line, but I want to make sure we demonstrate to the American people that it is safe to take," Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, Wednesday. "When I do it, I'll do it publicly, so you can all witness my getting it done."