CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are growing in nearly all of Spain

The threshold of 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, considered to be the maximum alert level, was passed on August 20. Since then the virus has not stopped spreading

A Civil Guard checkpoint on Friday at the border between Navarre and La Rioja.
A Civil Guard checkpoint on Friday at the border between Navarre and La Rioja.RAQUEL MANZANARES / EFE

At the end of June, Spain had a 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases that was under 10 per 100,000 inhabitants. The lockdown had worked, the virus was not circulating widely and there was talk of some outbreaks at parties, family gatherings, senior residences and food-processing plants. A month later the active outbreaks numbered 120 and infections had multiplied by five. The threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was surpassed on August 13.

Spain now has a cumulative incidence of 362. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) paints its maps red – the maximum alert level – from 150 upward. The infections are overwhelming the ever-more restrictive measures that the country’s regions have been implementing. Madrid has clearly brought down its notified cases since it took action, but in the rest of Spain’s territories the trend is on the rise.

Just over 12% of all hospital beds are currently taken up by Covid-19 patients

Hospitalizations are also growing across the country. Yesterday 14,539 admissions were reported by the Health Ministry, 10,000 more than on August 20 when this data series began. Just over 12% of all hospital beds are currently taken up by Covid-19 patients. In the country’s intensive care units (ICUs), the occupation is 22.5%, something that is leading to the suspension of planned surgical procedures. The pandemic is causing 140 fatalities a day. For the last five weeks, more than 100 people with Covid-19 are dying on daily basis.

Navarre, La Rioja, Aragón and Castilla y León are the regions with the worst epidemiological situation, according to the latest ministry report. All of them currently exceed 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, with Navarre doubling that threshold with 1,063 cases. These regions have all taken drastic measures, such as perimetral confinements, which mean that no one can come in and out apart from reasons such as work. In the case of Navarre and La Rioja, this closure has been applied to the entire region. In Aragón, three provincial capitals are confined: Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel. Castilla y León has the restriction in place in four of its nine capitals: Salamanca, Burgos, León and Palencia. Large areas such as Ponferrada, Miranda de Ebro and Aranda de Duero are also confined.

The poor situation in these areas is also reflected in the positivity rates – i.e. the percentage of coronavirus tests that are coming back positive. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that this rate should be below 5% to consider the pandemic under control. In Aragón the figure is currently 20%, in Castilla y León it is 18%, Navarre 15%, and La Rioja 8%.

The occupation of hospitals, in particular ICUs, is very high in these four territories. Only Navarre (32%) is below 35% of occupation. Castilla y León exceeds 35%, while La Rioja and Aragón are at 37% and 43%, respectively. Castilla y León is due to implement a curfew, which will limit movement in the region from today onward and will have to be ratified by the courts. Navarre is calling on the central government to introduce a state of alarm so that a curfew can be introduced across the country. La Rioja has also stated that it will not apply such measures until there is agreement across the regions, as has Aragón.

The Basque Country registered a record number of infections during the pandemic so far, with 1,207 new cases reported on Friday and a positivity rate of 8.5%, a level not seen since the end of August. The cumulative incidence has also risen to 452.5 per 100,000 inhabitants over the last two weeks, above the 418.3 seen the day before (according to the data from the Basque government, which differ from those reported by the Health Ministry). In Gipuzkoa, the worst-affected territory, the incidence is now at 626, whereas on Thursday it was 577.

The situation in Madrid has been improving for several weeks, but it continues to be bad. With 422 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, it is above the average in Spain, and also exceeds the average positivity rate, with 12%. This latter indicator has improved since the 20% that it registered in September. Of particular concern is the ICU occupation rate, which is nearly at 40%. Only Aragón, with 43%, and the North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla have a worse situation. Melilla, for example, has 67% of its ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients.

Catalonia and Castilla-La Mancha are in a situation of “extreme” risk, according to Health Ministry criteria. The positivity rate is high, with 12% in Catalonia and 15% in Castilla-La Mancha, and in Catalonia the ICU occupation rates are starting to be of concern, given that they are at 31%.

The incidence in Murcia is above the Spanish average, while positivity is below, and is considered medium risk by the ministry’s criteria. On Wednesday restrictions were put in place in 12 municipalities and a number of neighborhoods in Murcia and Cartagena for seven days.

Andalusia has announced a curfew in Granada, which will have to be approved by the courts

Asturias, Extremadura and Andalusia have also worsened over the last 10 days. Asturias requested a state of alarm on Friday so that it can implement a curfew and also announced the perimetral confinement of its main cities, Oviedo, Gijón and Avilés. The cumulative incidence exceeds 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, according to the ministry’s report on Friday. Infections are growing fast, given that the incidence was at 207 a week ago. ICU occupation has grown from 13.5% last week to 16% yesterday.

Andalusia has announced a curfew in Granada, which will have to be approved by the courts, and is considering the same measure in other provinces. With 327 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the region is below the Spanish average, but positivity is high at 16.5%. Hospital occupation is growing, with 1,794 patients, 513 more than a week ago, which shows the rapid spread of the virus. In this region, the 40,000 residents of Écija, in Seville, have been confined since October 15.

Extremadura is also slightly below the Spanish average in terms of incidence, but positivity is high (12%). Since Thursday night, restrictions have been in place in a number of municipalities, including Mérida and Plasencia, with a reduction of capacity in establishments and places of worship.

The United Kingdom and Germany this week opted to exclude the Canary Islands from its list of high-risk destinations for travelers. The archipelago has the lowest cumulative incidence in Spain: 81 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. It is the only area that is under 100. It is also the only one with a positivity rate below 5%, as per the WHO’s recommendation, and the pressure on its hospitals is among the lowest, only bettered by Galicia. In September, restrictions were introduced on some of its islands. Now only Tenerife has limitations, such as the closure of bars and restaurants at midnight.

The Valencia region has a cumulative incidence of 153 but its positivity rate, 13%, is now considered to be a high risk

The Balearic Islands also have a “medium risk” situation according to the ministry’s criteria. The cumulative incidence is at 151 but is growing, while positivity is 6% and 14% of ICU beds are occupied by Covid patients. The archipelago has just introduced new restrictions, with a ban from today of consumption at bar counters and a maximum of six people at restaurant tables.

The Valencia region, with a medium risk situation, has a cumulative incidence of 153 but its positivity rate, 13%, is now considered to be a high risk according to ministry criteria. The situation in hospitals, however, is better – the percentage of ICU beds that are occupied by Covid patients is 13%.

Galicia has a low incidence if compared to the average, but high if transmission is to be controlled, with 191 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days. Only 5% of hospital beds are occupied by Covid patients, 7% in the case of its ICUs. Both of these data points have improved slightly.

Cantabria, with a cumulative incidence of 225, is suffering a considerable rise in cases in recent days, after seeing a fall at the end of September.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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