Spain reports 8,866 new coronavirus cases, but incidence falls in Madrid

The Andalusian government has been accused of hiding community transmission of Covid-19 in Costa del Sol, and five people have been arrested for stealing nearly one million face masks

A health worker carries out a PCR test in Alfaro in La Rioja.
A health worker carries out a PCR test in Alfaro in La Rioja.RAQUEL MANZANRES (EFE)
Pablo Linde

The Spanish Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 8,866 new coronavirus infections. This is up from last Wednesday’s figure of 8,581 and the 7,297 cases recorded the previous Wednesday. But while the number of cases continues to rise, the spread is slowing.

The 14-day and seven-day cumulative incidence of the virus fell slightly on Wednesday with respect to Tuesday’s figure. This does not indicate a downward trend, but rather a momentary relief in the number of cases. The cumulative incidence in Madrid fell from 543 cases per 100,000 people to 528.6 on Wednesday, while in La Rioja it dropped from 392.7 cases to 373.4. La Rioja had the second-highest rate of Covid-19 on Tuesday, but on Wednesday the region was overtaken by the Basque Country (378.5) and Navarre (376.5).

It is too soon to say whether this drop is a result of the coronavirus restrictions introduced in the regions with the most cases. In the northeastern region of Aragón, which had the highest incidence rate in July, coronavirus transmission did not fall until weeks after confinement measures and other restrictions were introduced.

The success of the coronavirus restrictions will determine whether Spain is able to contain the pandemic and prevent its hospitals from becoming overwhelmed

Different strategies have been implemented by the regions in a bid to reduce contagion. In the Madrid region, the regional government has limited social gatherings to 10 people and restricted capacity at funerals, religious ceremonies and bar counters. But a growing number of regional authorities have introduced confinement measures, with at least seven municipalities in quarantine across Spain.

On Thursday, the regional health department in Aragón announced that the municipality of Andorra would be confined after 65 cases were detected in the area. Entry to and from Andorra will be restricted from Friday, with residents only allowed to leave the municipality if they have a justified reason. In addition to the confinement order, the regional government also recommended that residents “avoid non-essential trips and activities.”

On Wednesday, the Balearic government announced it would confine four neighborhoods in Palma, on the Spanish island of Mallorca, due to high coronavirus transmission rates in the city. The areas of Son Gotleu, Can Capes, La Soledat Nord and part of Son Canals, which are home to nearly 23,000 people, will be closed off for at least 15 days beginning on Friday at 10pm. Residents will only be allowed in and out for essential business such as work, school and visits to the doctor.

The Castilla y León government has also introduced tough restrictions, in the cities of Salamanca and Valladolid. These measures, which are similar to those introduced under Phase 1 of the government’s deescalation plan, but without limits on movement, were extended Wednesday for seven days until September 17.

The success of these restrictions will determine whether Spain is able to contain the pandemic and prevent its hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Hospitals in the Madrid region are already beginning to feel the strain, with the rising number of Covid-19 cases forcing some centers to suspend non-essential surgery and transfer patients. According to the Health Ministry report released on Wednesday, 17% of hospital beds in Madrid are occupied by coronavirus patients, compared to the national average of 7.3%. In total, 8,398 people are hospitalized with the disease, of whom 1,131 are in intensive care.

The latest figures reported 34 new coronavirus fatalities and 246 deaths that were reported last week. The official death toll has risen to 29,628, but the real figure is likely to be much higher given many people died without being diagnosed, meaning they were not included in the official count.

Community transmission in Costa del Sol hidden for weeks

For more than two weeks, the Andalusian regional government hid the “active community transmission” of Covid-19 in the Costa del Sol healthcare district, which is home to nearly half a million people and receives large numbers of tourists in the summer.

A group of people in Puerto Banús in Marbella in August.
A group of people in Puerto Banús in Marbella in August.Garcia-Santos (El Pais)

An internal document from the regional health department, dated August 24, warned of community transmission in a note to several senior residences in the Costa del Sol healthcare area. But the chief of public administration, Elías Bendodo did not publicly admit to the “worrying” situation until September 8.

According to the document sent out to senior homes, on August 24 the 14-day cumulative incidence of Covid-19 in Costa del Sol was 163 cases per 100,000 people. This is five times higher than the level recommended by the Andalusian health department, which is 30 cases.

Sources from the Andalusian government denied this information was concealed, arguing the administration has been “totally transparent” despite the delay in making the situation public.

Five arrested for stealing 900,000 face masks

Five men have been arrested for stealing 900,000 face masks and 2,4 million pairs of gloves from a warehouse in the Madrid neighborhood of Leganés in mid-August. The Madrid police department announced on Wednesday that the five individuals had tried to sell the material, valued at €700,000, on the black market. According to police, the five detainees are Spanish nationals, aged between 35 and 52, and have a criminal record for similar crimes. The investigation remains open and could lead to more arrests.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS