Just seven weeks after bringing its first coronavirus wave under control, experts say Spain is once again in a "critical" situation with the worst infection rate in Western Europe. 

The country reported an average of 4,923 new daily cases of the respiratory disease during the last seven days, a higher amount than that of Britain, France, Germany and Italy combined, according to a tally compiled by AFP based on official figures. 

Spain counts 95 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 24 in France, 17 in Britain, 13 in Germany and just eight in Italy, the first country outside of China to be hit hard by the pandemic. 

The spike has led a growing list of countries to impose restrictions on travel to Spain, which has nearly 323,000 confirmed cases of the disease, the highest number in Western Europe and 11th highest in the world. 

"It's a critical moment, we are right at a point where things can get better or worse," said Salvador Macip, an expert in health sciences at Catalonia's Open University who has written a book called "The Great Modern Plagues". 

"This means we have to pull out all the stops to curb outbreaks before they become more serious," he told AFP. 

Spain is ranked 11th in the world for confirmed cases of Covid-19

There are currently more than 500 outbreak clusters in Spain, according to the health ministry.

The ministry's emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon acknowledged that there are cases of community transmission in some places that are "not perfectly controlled" but he said they had "gradually subsided" in recent days. 

'Perfect storm'

In mid-March, Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe to fight the spread of the virus, with people allowed outside only to buy food, seek medical care, briefly walk their dog or go to work if they could not do so remotely. 

When the lockdown measures were completely lifted on 21 June, the country reported just 238 new infections and it had just eight cases per 100,000 people. 

The rise in cases has lead more countries to impose restrictions on travel to Spain

But infections have surged since the first week of July, in part because the government "rushed" to open the economy "surely thinking about tourism", a pillar of the Spanish economy, said Joan Cayla, the head of Barcelona's Tuberculosis Investigation Unit, which now focuses on Covid-19. 

Several outbreak clusters have been reported among seasonal farm workers - who often live in crammed conditions - since the summer harvest season began, helping fuel the rise in cases, Mr Macip added. 

And the start of warm weather has led people to "relax" a bit, in a country where physical contact and get togethers with friends and family are common, he said. 

This helped create a "perfect storm", Mr Macip said. 

He said the best way to curb infections is with more testing, public education campaigns and hiring more people to carry out contact tracing - and there have been "flaws" in all three areas. 

Falling death rate 

Spain's powerful regional governments, which are responsible for health care, have taken drastic measures to curb outbreaks, such as shutting down nightclubs and making the use of face masks in public mandatory despite the heat. 

Several regions have also launched public awareness campaigns with hard-hitting images to encourage youths to respect social distancing measures. 

The federal government defended its record, arguing that more cases are being detected because more tests are being carried out - around 7.5 million so far, with 407,700 last week alone. 

It points out that more than half of new infections are among asymptomatic patients, who show no symptoms but can still pass on the virus, that hospitals are far from being overwhelmed and that the rate of death from the virus has dropped significantly. 

Spain recorded 950 daily Covid-19 deaths on 2 April alone when its first coronavirus wave peaked - compared to a total of 253 deaths since lockdown measures ended on 21 June, for a total of 28,576 fatalities. 

France warned public becoming careless

The renewed spread of coronavirus in France could become harder to control without a collective effort to stop a rise in the infection rate, its prime minister has said.

The public was becoming careless, Jean Castex warned, speaking shortly before health authorities said new daily infections were up by 1,397 over 24 hours, almost twice as much as yesterday, to reach 204,172.

"If we don't act collectively, we expose ourselves to the heightened risk that the rebound in the epidemic becomes hard to control," Mr Castex said during a visit to a hospital intensive care ward in southern France.

UK reports highest case numbers since June

The United Kingdom reported 1,148 confirmed new cases of Covid-19 today, the highest daily total since 21 June.

The cumulative total of UK cases stood at 312,789, government data showed.

It was only the second time since June that the daily total of new confirmed cases topped the 1,000 mark.

The previous instance was on Sunday, when the daily figure was 1,062.

The UK authorities stopped publishing daily updates on the number of deaths from Covid-19 on 17 July due to a review of the way the statistics were being reported, which has yet to conclude.

More than 46,000 people have died of the disease in the United Kingdom, the highest toll in Europe.