CORONAVIRUS

Spain adds 241 coronavirus deaths to official toll, the highest figure so far of the second wave

According to the latest data, 36% of intensive care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients in the Madrid region, compared to the national average of 16%

A health worker in the intensive care unit of Madrid‘s La Paz hospital on September 15, 2020.
A health worker in the intensive care unit of Madrid‘s La Paz hospital on September 15, 2020.Sergio Pérez / Reuters

The new figures on the coronavirus crisis in Spain are increasingly resembling those seen during the peak of the pandemic in March and April. According to the official report released last night by the Spanish Health Ministry, 241 deaths have been added to the official toll – the second highest figure of the second wave of Covid-19. Not all of these fatalities, however, took place in the last 24 hours. This number also includes coronavirus deaths that happened on earlier dates but had not yet been added to the official toll. During the first wave, Spain recorded up to 950 deaths a day, using the same reporting method.

The Health Ministry recorded 10,799 new coronavirus cases in the official report released on Tuesday. But this cannot be compared to the number of infections during the first wave, given that Spain now has greater capacity to detect new cases. Where before, health authorities were only carrying out tests on the most serious infections; now they are also detecting minor and asymptomatic cases.

As the number of coronavirus cases rises, so too has the number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care

The percentage of hospital beds occupied by coronavirus patients has also risen to 9.6%. But the situation is worse in the intensive care units (ICUs). On Tuesday, the Health Ministry published for the first time the ICU occupancy rate in Spain: 16.8% of all intensive care beds in Spain are occupied by Covid-19 patients. This figure varies greatly between the regions. La Rioja has the highest rate at 56.7%, followed by Madrid (36.3%) and Aragón (32.5%). The regions with the lowest occupancy rate are Galicia (4.48%), Asturias (4.53%), Extremadura (8.79%) and the Canary Islands (9.15%). The remaining regions have more than 10% of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients. Importantly too, the occupancy rate is not only based on the core number of ICU beds available but also on the extensions to these services.

This data point is key because it ultimately determines the scope and severity of the measures aimed at curbing contagion. When ICUs are overwhelmed, authorities have no other choice but to introduce more drastic measures in a bid to ease the pressure. This happened in the spring, when the entire Spanish economy was “hibernated” to prevent ICUs from reaching the breaking point.

The state of Spain’s ICUs reflect, with a few weeks of difference, the rise in diagnosed coronavirus cases. More infections are being detected now than in March – many of which are minor and asymptomatic – but as the number of cases rises, so too has the number of patients requiring hospitalization and intensive care.

The cumulative incidence of Covid-19 in Madrid has risen to 746.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national average of 287.7

The epidemic continues to rise in almost all of Spain’s 17 regions. Madrid continues to have the highest 14-day cumulative incidence of Covid-19, with 746.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Navarre (622.7), where there has been a surge in cases; La Rioja (444.5); Aragón (388.1), where numbers have risen again after a weeks-long downward trend; and Castilla-La Mancha (383.6), which has also seen a sharp spike in infections. The national average is 287.7. The only region with an incidence rate below 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is Asturias (98.26), which has the lowest rate in Spain, followed by Valencia (115) Galicia (114.4).

While these regions have the lowest incidence rate in Spain, they are still far above most other European countries: Germany (24.9), Italy (32.1), the United Kingdom (69.1) and Portugal (80.8). In most of Europe, the trend is on the rise, particularly in France which now has 182.9 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

More information