The Delta variant of Covid-19 and a surge in infections among younger, unvaccinated people have catapulted Spain’s coronavirus rate to the highest in mainland Europe, according to Financial Times research. Infection rates in the country have rocketed over the past week, surpassing both Portugal and Russia, with the seven-day rate almost tripling from 58 cases per 100,000 on June 29 to 156 on Tuesday. Spain still slightly lags behind Portugal on the 14-day rate more widely used in the EU.

In response to the rise, the Catalonia region — the worst affected in the country — said on Tuesday it was reintroducing restrictions on nightlife, while CastileLeon called for a return to a curfew system. Spain’s rise in infections has been fuelled by a dramatic increase among 12-29year-olds, among whom infections are roughly 20 times as common as for the over-70s.

The Spanish government has attributed much of the rise to social gatherings — including outdoor drinking sessions where young people share bottles — and to greater mobility at a time when people are traveling within Spain on holiday. The country scrapped almost all of its national Covid restrictions in May.

Spain’s surge in cases is being driven by young people

But FT research, based on random samples taken by Spanish authorities, indicates that the more infectious Delta variant now accounts for some 30 percent of all cases and is set to become dominant around July 17.

Spain’s trajectory is moving it closer to infection levels in the UK — which is ending coronavirus curbs on July 19 — with both countries gambling that the rise in cases among younger and largely unvaccinated people will not lead to graver problems among older, more vulnerable groups.