BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spain has detected its second known case of the South African coronavirus variant, officials said on Wednesday, although data suggested a third wave of contagion that has roiled the country since December was slowing.
The discovery of the case in the northeastern region of Catalonia came a day after the government restricted air travel with Brazil and South Africa to try to stop highly contagious new variants spreading into Spain.
A study by Barcelona's Bellvitge Hospital showed the British variant accounts for 13% of infections in the south of the city, up from 4% a month ago. And authorities in Madrid said the variant was growing exponentially and would likely become the dominant strain across the region in a matter of weeks.
Still, the national 14-day incidence of the virus fell to 816 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from a peak of 900 cases a week ago, pointing to a stabilisation in infection rates.
The health ministry reported 31,596 new cases, retreating from highs of more than 40,000 two weeks ago and pushing the overall tally to 2.88 million. The death toll rose by 565 to 60,370.
A technical committee will decide on Thursday whether to recommend the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine for over 65-year olds, Health Minister Carolina Darias told a news conference, adding that Spain would receive 1.8 million doses of the shot in Februrary.
She said the committee recommended using vaccines based on messenger RNA technology - such as those developed by Pfizer and Moderna - in people over 80, but did not say whether that ruled out the use of the AstraZeneca drug in such patients.
Asked whether Spain would follow Hungary and consider using the Russian-developed Sputnik vaccine, she said her government would only do so if it received authorisation from the European Medicines Agency.
(Reporting by Joan Faus and Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Barbara Lewis)