The number of daily coronavirus deaths registered in Spain was 331 on Monday, according to the latest figures provided by the Health Ministry. This is a rise from Sunday, when the number of overnight fatalities was 288, the lowest figure since March 18.
However, the data should be viewed with some caution, given that there has been regular underreporting of coronavirus statistics from Spain’s 17 regions on weekends and on public holidays due to fewer personnel.
There were 1,831 new infections, although this figure only counts cases confirmed through PCR tests, which identify people with an active infection at the time of testing. Since Sunday, the government has only reported infections confirmed via this method, and not serological tests, which measure antibodies in the blood. Up until two weeks ago, new cases were only being measured with PCR tests.
The total number of infections confirmed via PCR tests is 209,465, and the total death toll since the beginning of the pandemic is 23,521. Health authorities also reported that a total of 100,875 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, a daily rise of 2,144. This represents 48% of all infections confirmed via PCR tests. Since the beginning of the crisis, a total of 37,994 health workers have tested positive for Covid-19.
Speaking at the government’s daily press conference on Monday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, said "the evolution of the epidemic with respect to the number of cases is very positive.”
Simón also addressed concerns that the public was not respecting the relaxed confinement rules for children, who were allowed outside on Sunday for the first time since May 14. “If the evolution of the epidemic does not proceed as it should, because the rules are not respected, the transition phase will arrive later or be slower than what we all would like,” he said.
After reaching a peak of 950 fatalities on April 2, the number of daily coronavirus-related deaths began a slow descent. The figures last week remained stable with 378 on Saturday, 367 on Friday, 440 on Thursday, 435 on Wednesday and 430 on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska on Monday appealed to parents’ sense of responsibility in connection with children’s daily walks: “It is essential to respect the rules. We cannot afford any mistakes,” he said at a joint briefing with the health minister Salvador Illa.
As for the continued deescalation of confinement measures, central health authorities are analyzing the plans sent in by regional governments in order to come up with a general roadmap. The Basque government is proposing making face masks mandatory on public transportation and conducting random temperature checks.
Illa said that the territorial unit of reference for scaling back the lockdown “is the province, but we will listen to the regions.” The minister said that Prime Minister Sánchez will provide more details on Tuesday after the Cabinet meeting.
“We’re going to go step by step. Tomorrow we will see which regions meet the requirements,” said Illa.
Asked about reopening Spain’s borders, the interior minister said that the government will establish common criteria with the EU “when domestic circumstances allow it.”
More than 114,000 patients hospitalized
A total of 114,081 coronavirus patients have required hospitalization since the beginning of the crisis. This figure was made known for the first time on Monday after Madrid regional authorities provided the number of total hospital admissions. Up until now, the region had only reported the number of patients currently in hospital, and how many had recovered and been discharged.
On Monday, the region reported that a total of 39,472 coronavirus patients in Madrid had required hospitalization since the beginning of the crisis. This represents 34% of all hospital admissions in Spain. For the first time, Madrid also reported how many patients had been admitted into intensive care since the beginning of the crisis – a total of 3,309.
The figures on hospital admissions are considered by epidemiologists to be one of the most reliable indicators of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, given that the Health Ministry only counts cases and victims who have tested positive for the virus.
Spain begins serological survey
The Spanish Health Ministry began on Monday a serological survey aimed at revealing the incidence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Spain. The plan was announced on April 8, but was pushed back due to several delays.
The survey, which has been designed by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII), will test around 36,000 families – some 90,000 people – for the coronavirus. A rapid test, which detects antibodies in a blood sample, will be carried out on each member of a household, and if it comes back negative, a more reliable PCR test will be carried out. The process will be repeated after 21 days.
The samples will be collected by regional health authorities, and the tests will be done in medical centers, unless a home visit is needed. The preliminary results of the survey should be available on May 10, when the first round of testing is scheduled to be completed.
The aim is to analyze the gap between the official figures and the real spread of the virus to enable the government to better plan the relaxation of confinement measures.
The coronavirus outbreak has slowed significantly in many regions in Spain. In the eastern region of Valencia, 62% of municipalities have not recorded a new infection for the past two weeks. What’s more, 55% of all patients have recovered and only three in five cases remain active, a sharp drop since the beginning of April when the figure was nine in ten.
In response to the promising figures, the premier of the Valencia region, Ximo Puig, announced on Sunday that the region will soon be ready for the relaxation of the confinement measures that have been in place since March 14, when the central government declared a state of alarm.
The premier of Aragón, Javier Lambán, also proposed on Sunday easing the lockdown rules in municipalities with fewer than 5,000 residents. The premier made the recommendation at the weekly meeting between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and regional leaders.
On Sunday, the southeastern region of Murcia reported no new coronavirus infections, while the Canary Islands recorded no coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period.
English version by Melissa Kitson.