Coronavirus death toll in Spain rises by 283, but only 35 fatalities recorded last week

A change in the reporting method has led to several revisions of the official figures and broken the historical series on the evolution of the outbreak

A health worker carries out a fast coronavirus test at a field hospital in Asturias.
A health worker carries out a fast coronavirus test at a field hospital in Asturias.OSCAR CORRAL
Elena G. Sevillano

The official coronavirus death toll in Spain rose by 283 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of victims to 27,117. Only 35 of these fatalities, however, occurred within the last week, and were recorded in the daily report. The Spanish Health Ministry did not report the figure of 283, although this number represents the difference between the coronavirus death toll on Monday and Tuesday.

According to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, the other 248 victims were old cases that had not yet been given a date of death. “This process is going to continue for several days,” he said. “We still have hundreds of deaths that must be placed at a point during the epidemic. Some are old fatalities and others have been removed [from the official count] because the [Covid-19] diagnosis was not confirmed.”

According to health officials, 10 of Spain’s 17 regions have not reported a single coronavirus-related death in the past week

On Monday, the Spanish Health Ministry removed nearly 2,000 coronavirus-related deaths from the official count, citing calculation errors such as duplicate reports and the fact that regional health authorities had included victims who had not been diagnosed with Covid-19 via the more reliable PCR tests.

Simón said on Tuesday that 10 of Spain’s 17 regions had not reported a single coronavirus-related death in the past week. Five others had only reported one or two fatalities. Catalonia and La Rioja reported the highest number of deaths, with eight and nine respectively over the last seven days.

The Health Ministry also adjusted the total number of coronavirus infections in Spain: the figure was 235,400 on Monday and 236,259 on Tuesday, a rise of 859. This number is calculated by subtracting the total count reported on both of these days, as the daily report only recorded 194 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours. This figure indicates the date of diagnosis, not the date of infection.

According to the Health Ministry, 256 coronavirus patients have been admitted into hospital over the past week, bringing the total to 123,182. Another 12 patients were admitted into intensive care in the same seven-day period.

Changing method

The Health Ministry changed the way regional authorities report coronavirus figures on May 11. Before this date, the information was provided in an aggregate manner. This meant that new infections could have been cases that were reported weeks or months earlier, given that some laboratories take a long time to produce test results. Afterwards, regions had to provide information on an individual basis, with more precise data that included, for example, the date of notification and diagnosis. In addition to this information, the regions also had to note when the patient began experiencing coronavirus symptoms. This method allowed the evolution of the coronavirus epidemic to be studied with greater accuracy.

The change, however, has led to several revisions of the official figures and broken the historical series, which will have to be corrected and republished in order to understand the evolution of the outbreak. Hundreds of cases will need to be allocated to dates earlier than the one they were reported on. Simón also announced on Tuesday that from now on the figures on coronavirus contagion among health workers will provided on a weekly basis, on either Wednesday or Thursday.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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