CORONAVIRUS

Spain’s National Statistics Institute registers 44,000 excess deaths in first five months of the year compared to 2019

A massive spike appears in March and April, when the coronavirus crisis reached its peak in the country

The Sancho de Ávila funeral home in Barcelona.
The Sancho de Ávila funeral home in Barcelona. / Europa Press

The number of deaths in Spain was 24% higher in the first 21 weeks of 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). This figure is based on data received from the country’s civil registries between January 1 and May 24 and compared with the historical series. According to these figures, which were published on Wednesday, Spain recorded 43,945 more fatalities in this period.

The rise in deaths is clearly linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to hundreds of fatalities in March and April. Indeed, if these two months are compared to the same period last year, the rise in mortality is around 50%. The coronavirus outbreak reached its peak in Spain on April 2, when 950 daily deaths were reported.

According to the INE, the week between March 30 and April 5 saw the highest number of deaths in the year, “with 20,575 fatalities, 154.6% up compared to the same week in 2019.” The institute stated that the figures start to return to normal on May 18. That week, the last included in the study, an estimated 7,470 people died, which the INE stated was “a similar figure to the 7,429 from the same week in 2019.”

In the week between March 30 and April 5, 20,575 fatalities were recorded, 154.6% more than the same week in 2019

The figures from the INE also reflect the impact of the pandemic on seniors. In a press release, the institute said: “Since the beginning of the year, the largest rise in deaths was among people aged over 90, with a total of 60,032 deaths, 27.2% more than the same period in 2019.”

On May 24, the Spanish Health Ministry reported that 28,752 people had died from Covid-19. This figure is 15,193 lower than the total number of deaths recorded by the INE study. The official coronavirus death toll, however, only includes victims who tested positive for the coronavirus via PCR tests. This means that people who died without being tested are not included in the official toll, even if they were suspected cases.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez noted in Congress that the official death toll uses data sent in by regional governments and follows World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. “This figure counts the deceased who were tested and whose tests came back positive,” he said. “There will be a state ceremony in their honor.”

The INE figure of 43,945 is very similar to the number of deaths recorded by the Carlos III Health Institute, which reported 43,014 fatalities between March 13 and May 22. This figure was calculated using the Mortality Monitoring System (MoMo), which was created in 2004 to track the impact of heatwaves and other seasonal events in Spain.

According to the INE study, the highest rise in fatalities in the first 21 weeks of the year was recorded in Madrid (72.7%), Castilla-La Mancha (58%) and Catalonia (41%). The lowest increase was recorded in the Balearic Islands (0.5%) and in Murcia (1.1%).

The INE will be releasing an update to this study every two weeks.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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