CORONAVIRUS

Spanish Health Ministry reports 52,188 coronavirus cases since Friday, a new weekend record

The number of infections has jumped 37% from last week’s figure, while the occupancy rate in hospitals and intensive care units also continues to rise

A health worker performs a PCR test in Spain‘s Basque Country.
A health worker performs a PCR test in Spain‘s Basque Country.Ion Alcoba / Europa Press

The coronavirus situation in Spain continues to worsen at a “faster and more acute” rate. That’s according to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), who appeared at a government press conference on Monday to present the Health Ministry’s latest report on the evolution of the pandemic. It’s a message that is reflected in the data. On Monday, the ministry registered 53,188 new coronavirus cases since Friday (figures are not reported over the weekend). This is 37% more than the same three-day figure from last week, when the ministry recorded the highest number seen in one of its daily reports.

Although the number of infections from Friday, Saturday and Sunday are added together, the average is equal to around 17,000 cases a day. The total number of cases in Spain since the beginning of the pandemic is now approaching 1.1 million (1,098,320). Between the end of March and April, the propagation of the virus was much greater, according to studies. But the statistics were lower than they are now: at the outset of the pandemic, only the most serious cases were being recorded, whereas now there are many mild and asymptomatic infections included in the figures.

“Spain is clearly going up and that worries us a lot,” said Simón on Monday. With these figures, the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants has risen from 361.66 on Friday to 410.18 on Monday – a rise of 13% just over the weekend.

Coronavirus patients occupy 24.4% of ICU beds and many emergency wards are in a “very critical” situation

Simón explained that even though infections are rising – a trend that is also being seen in other European countries – the case fatality rate remains below 1%. This is a very different situation from the first months of the pandemic, when it was more than 10%. But as the number of cases rises, so too has the number of Covid-19 related deaths. According to the Health Ministry report, 1,039 fatalities were added to the official death count in the past week. Of this figure, 628 victims died in the last seven days, nearly 100 a day, said Simón.

In the past seven days, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases has risen in all of Spain’s 17 regions except for Madrid. Now there are 14 regions with an incidence rate above 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and in Navarre and the exclave city of Melilla, the figure is more than 1,000.

According to Monday’s report, coronavirus patients occupy 13.7% of all hospital beds – up from 10.36% one week ago. In eight territories (regions and exclave cities), the occupancy rate is more than 15%. Simón warned that some healthcare centers are beginning to feel the strain from the rising number of Covid-19 patients.

The situation is worse in Spain’s intensive care units (ICUs): 24.4% of ICU beds are occupied by coronavirus patients and many emergency wards are in a “very critical” situation, said Simón. One week ago, the figure was 21.4%. The health official warned that many ICUs will be facing difficulties by mid-November if the coronavirus restrictions and the call for individual responsibility fail to curb the spread of the virus. To prevent this from happening, “vulnerable groups must be well protected,” said Simón, adding that this does not mean “shutting them off” – in many regions visits to senior homes are banned and residents are not allowed out – but rather that they be looked after by their close contacts.

Asymptomatic cases

The only positive indicator from Monday’s report was the number of tests carried out per 100,000 inhabitants. This figure stands at 1,851 per 100,000, up from 1,516 last week. In the regions of Navarre and La Rioja, the number is more than 4,000. Simón said this would have a positive impact on the evolution of the pandemic. The positivity rate – the percentage of PCR tests that come back positive out of the total – has risen from 12.3% to 13.1%. “Forty percent are asymptomatic or presymptomatic,” said Simón, adding that the high detection rate will make no difference unless positive cases are placed in quarantine.

Simón also supported the new state of alarm, which was declared by the Spanish government to give regional governments the legal framework they need to limit mobility – in particular nighttime socializing – in a bid to combat the second wave of the coronavirus. Using this new tool, the regions of Aragón, Asturias and Basque Country announced on Monday that they would close their borders, while Andalusia was on Tuesday considering a similar move. Two other regions, Navarre and La Rioja, closed off their territory last week after seeking court authorization.

The central government wants the emergency measure to remain in place until May 9, meaning it would not have to ask Spain’s lower house of parliament to approve its extension every two weeks. Simón approved of keeping it in place for six months, arguing this would allow everyone to work calmly towards controlling the pandemic.

Visitors to Canary Islands must test negative for Covid-19

The Canary Islands regional government announced on Monday that foreign and national visitors to the archipelago will be asked to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test result on arrival. If tourists do not show a certificate indicating a negative result within 48 to 72 hours of departure, hotels and other tourist accommodation, including holiday homes, will deny them entry until they have gone to a medical center or lab for a test. For now this measure will only apply to tourists, although the regional government has not ruled out introducing some kind of checks on people who visit the islands for other reasons, such as work.

The Canary Islands is the only region exempted from the nationwide curfew declared under the state of alarm, due to its low incidence rate of the virus. Last week, Germany and Britain added the archipelago to their list of safe travel destinations, fueling hopes that the region will be able to save part of its winter high season.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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