The epidemiological curve of the coronavirus continues to rise in Spain. On Thursday, the Spanish Health Ministry recorded a new record-high number of daily cases: 20,986. According to the ministry’s daily report, the coronavirus is consolidating its spread and quickening its advance. The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 349. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Spain has recorded 1,026,281 confirmed infections, after passing the symbolic one-million milestone on Wednesday.
The Health Ministry report also added 155 Covid-19-related fatalities to the overall death toll, bringing the official total to 34,521. The real figure, however, may be much higher given that only victims with diagnoses confirmed by PCR tests were included in the toll during the first wave.
Although the situation varies greatly between Spain’s 17 regions, the pattern is the same: the number of cases, hospitalizations and intensive care (ICU) admissions are all on the rise. “On a global level, the situation in Spain is worsening. We have great diagnostic capabilities but the incidence rate continues to rise. The evolution is not as acute as in other European countries, but of course, it is not good,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), at a government press conference on Thursday.
On a global level, the situation in Spain is worsening. We have great diagnostic capabilities but the incidence rate continues to rise
The northwestern region of Navarre is currently the hardest hit by the pandemic, with an incidence rate that is triple the national average. Aragón is another one of the worst-affected regions in Spain: its cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants stands at 629 and more than 40% of ICU beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Both regions announced this week new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. In Navarre, the regional government ordered a perimetral lockdown of the entire region, the closure of all bars and restaurants and new restrictions on cultural activities. While in Aragón, authorities confined the provincial capitals of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel, and restricted the opening hours and capacity of the hostelry sector across the region.
According to the ministry’s daily report, the incidence rate is also high in Castilla y León and La Rioja, where the cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is 532 and 601, respectively. In Castilla y León, the regional government has also introduced perimetral lockdowns and tougher restrictions in several cities, while the entire region of La Rioja will be confined from Friday. On the other end of the spectrum is the Canary Islands, where the incidence rate is 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Indeed, both Britain and Germany have lifted the travel warning against the archipelago, prompting hopes that the region’s tourism industry will bounce back this winter.
Health authorities are concerned about the impact of the rising incidence rate on the country’s healthcare system. For months, primary health services have been on the brink of collapse, with doctors juggling regular patients with coronavirus cases as well as contact tracing. But this strain is now being felt by hospitals. According to the ministry’s report, 14,160 coronavirus patients are in hospital and 1,966 are in ICUs. Although on a national level, coronavirus patients only occupy 21.85% of total hospital capacity – including ward and ICU beds – the situation varies greatly in each region. In Catalonia, the occupancy rate is close to 30%, while in Ceuta, Spain’s exclave city in North Africa, the figure is 47%. “We don’t know what is going to happen in the next few days; we can expect the tendency to continue rising, we can’t know what this rise will be, but we can clearly see that it is going up,” said Simón. “This is seen in the hospitalizations and in primary care. The balance between admissions and discharges, although it continues to be relatively balanced, is leaning towards hospitalizations.”
According to the Health Ministry, 3,331 imported cases of the coronavirus, i.e. people who contracted the virus outside of Spain, have been recorded in the country since May 11. The largest number of these cases were detected in the Madrid region, with 695 imported infections, followed by Andalusia and Catalonia, with 506 and 312 cases respectively. Between October 15 and 21, 281 imported cases were reported.
English version by Melissa Kitson.