The Spanish Health Ministry reported on Wednesday 15,318 new coronavirus cases. According to the ministry’s latest report, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has fallen to 452.5, down from 465.86 on Tuesday, but hospitals in most Spanish regions continue to be under pressure.
Spain is reporting fewer new cases but this has not yet been reflected in the number of victims. The Health Ministry added 351 deaths to the official toll on Wednesday, bringing the seven-day cumulative number of fatalities to 1,346 – the highest weekly figure recorded in the second wave. The last time this record was broken was on November 5, when the Health Ministry reported 1,002 Covid-19-related deaths in a seven-day period. The new record comes a day after Spain reported the highest single-day number of deaths of the second wave, with 435 reported on Tuesday.
The rate is stabilizing on a downward trend, but the situation is very worrying because we have very high incidence ratesHealth Minister Salvador Illa
The incidence rate, however, is falling in all of Spain’s 17 regions with the exception of Asturias, the Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castilla y León and Valencia. The situation in Asturias is the most worrying, with the region’s 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants at 648 – a figure that has risen nearly 22% in just a week. In a bid to control the spread, the regional government of Asturias has extended the perimetral lockdown of the cities of Avilés, Gijón and Oviedo, which has been in place since October 24, and plans to also confine the municipalities of Langreo, Laviana and San Martín del Rey Aurelio, which are home to 70,000 people.
Another region of concern is Castilla y León, where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has risen to 800. Coronavirus patients in this region occupy one-fourth of regular hospital beds and 43% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds. The regional government in Castilla y León is particularly worried about the situation in the city of Burgos, where the incidence rate is double the regional average. In an effort to contain contagions and ease the pressure on hospitals, the regional administration agreed on Wednesday to suspend all cultural, leisure and sports activities in Burgos from Friday until December 3.
“The rate is stabilizing on a downward trend, but the situation is very worrying because we have very high incidence rates,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa after a meeting of the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System, which brings together the health chiefs from each region. “We have a very long way to go on the path to improvement, and this is happening right at the beginning of winter, when respiratory viruses have a favorable habitat to spread.”
In 11 Spanish regions, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 500. The Basque Country is one of them, although its epidemiological curve is on a downward trend. Regional health chief Gotzone Sagardui said on Wednesday that while the Basque Country had “entered a descent phase of contagions,” the incidence rate remains very high, meaning the region could “not let its guard down.” Sagardui added that it was too soon to lift the current coronavirus restrictions in place: “We absolutely must not relax and the measures must be maintained for some time.”
More than 3,000 patients in ICUs
Although the incidence rate has fallen in many regions, hospitals in Spain continue to be under pressure. The number of admissions has dropped slightly – the number of coronavirus patients has fallen by 600 – but the occupancy rate remains high. Nationally, coronavirus patients occupy 15.5% of all hospital beds, but this figure varies greatly between the regions. It is also much higher in ICUs, with nearly one-third of ICU beds taken up by Covid-19 patients. A total of 3,120 patients are currently in ICUs with the disease. According to Wednesday’s report, 180,594 people have been hospitalized due to Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. With respect to ICUs, this figure is 15,153.
Health experts agree that the current coronavirus restrictions should remain in place even if the incidence rate has dropped slightly in some territories. “Cases have fallen but many regions continue to be under great pressure. Under no circumstances can we relax because the number of cases is falling. We have to be alert, especially with the fall in temperatures that is expected shortly,” said Guadalupe Fontán, a nurse specializing in healthcare management and planning.
English version by Melissa Kitson.