Spain’s Health Ministry on Monday reported 8,618 new coronavirus infections since Friday, of which 1,486 were diagnosed in the last 24 hours. This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 322,980 since the epidemic took hold, according to the data that Spain’s regions report to the central administration.
Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), stated on Monday evening at a press conference that the bulk of the new cases are being detected in Catalonia, Madrid and Aragón. Of the 65 Covid-19 deaths reported in the last seven days, more than half of them were in Aragón, with 38, followed by Madrid and Andalusia, which both reported six fatalities in the last week. The total number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in Spain now stands at 28,576.
The data was reported on Monday after a delay due to a problem with the IT system, but unlike on previous occasions, all of Spain’s regions had reported their figures.
On Friday, for example, Aragón did not upload its coronavirus statistics due to technical problems, and the report it filed on Monday was apparently corrected to eliminate duplicate cases: the 18,870 infections reported last week have now fallen to 18,388, according to the region’s latest data.
Aragón is currently the region that most exceeds the average infection rate over the last two weeks. For the whole country, that figure stands at 90.56 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while in the northern region that figure is 514.12.
Simón claimed, however, that infections are beginning to level off in much of the country. “Aragón is beginning to stabilize, but we can’t guarantee that, we need to be cautious,” he said. “It is true that there are still some neighborhoods in Zaragoza where infections continue, but even there, if everything is going as it seems, we will have lower rates.”
The government official added that the healthcare system in Aragón is not overwhelmed, although he did recognize that some hospitals have “a slightly more critical situation than others.” According to data from the Aragón regional government, the Clínico Universitario de Zaragoza hospital has the most patients, with 156 admitted and 14 of those in intensive care, and as such will set up a field hospital in the parking lot to attend to more patients should the installation become overwhelmed.
Simón pointed to the fact that specific measures have been established and greater controls implemented, in particular with respect to the increase in infections in some neighborhoods. “It appears that they are heading in the right direction, we have to give them some time,” he said.
If you are with your family today, with a group of friends the next day and with a different group the next, that is the situation that involves the most riskFernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts
Other regions where infection rates are above the average include Navarre (159.28 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), Catalonia (157.73), the Basque Country (150.51) and Madrid (125.59). With regard to Catalonia, the CCAES director explained that new outbreaks and infections are “descending,” and that the situation is in a “control phase.” The Catalan capital and Madrid, he continued, are “special cases,” given that they constitute the “two biggest risk points.” The fact that Barcelona has been able to “control infections and apparently stabilize [the situation] suggest that the measures that are being applied have the ability to control outbreaks, including in complicated places such as metropolitan areas.”
The data shows that young people are now the main group being infected by the coronavirus. According to Simón, 70% of new cases are among the under-30s, although 10% of cases are among the over-65s, which is the main risk group for the disease. The CCAES director added that the fatality rate has dropped over the last two months of the pandemic, given that on the one hand, the affected groups are younger, and on the other, more asymptomatic and mild cases are being detected, something that was not happening during the peak of the pandemic.
That said, while the death rate over the last two weeks has been between 0.3% and 0.6% for the entire population, that figure rises to 14% to 17% for the over-70s. Simón stressed that it is vitally important to maintain strict measures in senior residences, something, he added, that the country’s regional governments are doing. “The regions are conscious of the risks and the impact is falling compared with what happened in March and April,” he said. “But we are not managing to reduce [infections in senior residences] to zero.”
Simón stressed that the best strategies to contain the virus include physical distancing and avoiding contact between groups that do not usually live together. “If you are with your family today, with a group of friends the next day and with a different group the next, that is the situation that involves the most risk, because one case can end up being transmitted to different groups, as if they were amplifiers,” he said. “It’s not easy to control. You can do this if the [safety] measures are adequate, but if we are out partying, the relaxation of measures is greater and this can generate risks of infection. Citizens need to understand that it is good if we limit social relationships to more or less stable groups, and if not, take the utmost precautions.”
On Monday it emerged that the Madrid regional government had signed an urgent contract with the private health group Quirón Salud to hire 22 professionals – two doctors and 20 nursing assistants – for three months to work as contract tracers. The move, which will cost €194,000, came after the administration drew criticism for the low number of staff it had in place to perform these tasks.
“Personally, I prefer public services,” said Simón on Thursday when questioned about the issue. “Each region has the right and the capacity to do this,” he continued. “But it has to be efficient. What I’m interested in is the observations that can be made from the data.”
English version by Simon Hunter.