CORONAVIRUS

Spain adds 537 coronavirus deaths to official toll, a new second-wave record

While fatalities rise, new cases, hospitalizations and admissions into intensive care units are on a downward trend, according to the latest Health Ministry report

A ward for coronavirus patients in a hospital in Barcelona.
A ward for coronavirus patients in a hospital in Barcelona.Emilio Morenatti / AP

The Spanish Health Ministry added 537 coronavirus deaths to the official toll on Tuesday, a figure not seen since the worst days of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, in the nine months since the health crisis began, there have only been 21 days when more fatalities have been recorded. Tuesday’s figure sets a new record for the highest single-day number of deaths of the second wave, breaking the previous one set last Tuesday, when 435 victims were reported.

“They are striking figures. We cannot continue to play down the data and act as if nothing was happening,” said Daniel López Acuña, a former official at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The big difference is that now the incidence rate is clearly falling. Given the downward trend of new infections, hospitalizations and admissions into intensive care units (ICUs), it is unlikely that the record will be broken again, as happened day after day during the first wave. In other words, if the incidence rate continues to fall, so too will the number of Covid-19-related deaths. But Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), warned on Monday that while the epidemic is on a “downward trend” it will be some time before this is reflected in the number of fatalities.

They are striking figures. We cannot continue to play down the data and act as if nothing was happening
Daniel López Acuña, former official at the World Health Organization

According to the Health Ministry’s daily report, the number of coronavirus cases is continuing to fall. On Tuesday, the ministry recorded 12,228 new infections, down from 13,159 the week before. The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 362. Although this is still far from the Spanish government’s goal of 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the figure has been falling uninterruptedly for more than two weeks.

“From my point of view it is a very slow speed, and it will continue like this, chronically for a month with these restrictive measures. It would have been better to have introduced a home lockdown of two to four weeks to quickly flatten the curve,” argued López Acuña, in reference to the current coronavirus restrictions such as the nighttime curfew, perimetral lockdowns of regions and the closure of bars and restaurants.

The overall trend, however, is positive, in every region that has seen very high transmission rates. Madrid, for example, has gone from being the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe to the region with the lowest incidence rate on the Spanish mainland. And in Cantabria and Asturias, which recently had the worst coronavirus figures in the country, figures show that the curve has been flattened.

The fall in coronavirus cases is being reflected in the number of hospitalizations with a delay of approximately one week. Although some regions are still under pressure, most have reported a significant fall in occupancy rates and the overall national trend is also falling. According to Tuesday’s report, coronavirus patients occupy 13.4% of regular hospital beds and 29% of ICU beds in Spain. There are 16,701 Covid-19 patients currently admitted to hospital, down from 17,695 on Monday. The regions with the highest number of hospitalizations are: Catalonia (3,315), Andalusia (2,758) and Madrid (2,056).

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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