CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus deaths in Spain rise to levels not seen since the full lockdown in spring

The Health Ministry on Tuesday added 411 victims to the official death toll but reported 17,395 new cases, one of the lowest figures seen in recent weeks

The intensive care unit at Valdecilla hospital in Cantabria.
The intensive care unit at Valdecilla hospital in Cantabria.Servicio Ilustrado (Automático) / Europa Press

The number of new coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday by Spain’s Health Ministry was, at 17,395, one of the lowest in recent weeks. Not since October 21 has a better figure been seen. That said, the number of Covid-19 fatalities reported set a new record. The ministry added 411 victims to the overall death toll in yesterday’s report, the highest so far in this second wave of the pandemic – apart from that of Monday (512), but this cannot be used for comparison given that it includes data from the entire weekend. The last time that 400 coronavirus victims were reported in a single day was back in April, when residents of Spain were still in a total lockdown. The worst days of the first wave of the health crisis, at the end of March and beginning of April, saw nearly a thousand fatalities reported in a single day.

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain as a whole remains above 500

According to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), the situation in terms of new cases is starting to stabilize. The government’s chief epidemiologist explained that “the peak of maximum transmission in this second wave was reached between the days of October 24 and 25.” Since then, there have been “slight falls, although we should be careful in case they are due to a delay in the data,” he warned. Whatever the case, he continued, the trend is one of “stabilization,” something that sounds like good news but should still be viewed with caution given that the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain as a whole remains above 500. As Simón pointed out, a risk situation is considered to be above 60 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning that the country is still far from improving. “We have nearly 10 times more,” he explained, adding that the data point would have to fall below 200 or 250 before there can be “any major modifications to the rules” – i.e. the current coronavirus restrictions in place, including a curfew and perimetral confinements in the worst-hit areas, are here to stay.

According to yesterday’s report, Aragón and Navarre are the regions with the highest infection rates, exceeding 900 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. They are followed by Castilla y León (859), La Rioja (979) and the Basque Country (779). Andalusia, with 569 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last 14 days, is having a worse second wave than the first one, with provinces such as Granada seeing 80% occupation of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in its main hospital, Javier Martín Arroyo reports. The region has now passed the 3,000-fatality mark after adding another 95 coronavirus victims to its own total (the Health Ministry’s total is slightly lower, adding 90 for a death toll in the region of 2,975). The 90 victims in Andalusia account for 22% of the new deaths added to the total by the ministry on Tuesday.

“Overloaded personnel”

Pressure on Spain’s hospitals continues to be high, both in terms of ordinary beds and ICUs. Simón warned that these figures would take time to stabilize, as new infections have done. The percentage of ICU beds occupied by coronavirus patients across Spain is 32%, but there are eight regions where that figure is above 40%, a complicated situation because it means that “personnel are overloaded.” Simón warned that this rate will have to be kept under control, adding that there are regions that have had to reduce scheduled surgeries and other activities in their hospitals. Improvements in the numbers of hospital beds that are occupied – there are currently 20,943 people receiving treatment, occupying 17% of the country’s ordinary beds – are likely to be seen before ICU figures get better, given that treatment in the latter usually lasts longer.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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