CORONAVIRUS

Covid-19 was leading cause of death in Spain between March and May with 45,684 fatalities

Over 32,000 victims were diagnosed, while 13,000 had symptoms compatible with the illness

Relatives of a Covid-19 victim saying farewell at a crematorium in Zaragoza on April 13, 2020.
Relatives of a Covid-19 victim saying farewell at a crematorium in Zaragoza on April 13, 2020.Álvaro Calvo / Getty

Between March and May 2020, there were 45,684 deaths from Covid-19 in Spain. This figure includes fatalities that were confirmed with a diagnostic test (32,652 people) and those who had symptoms compatible with the disease (13,032), according to statistics released on Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The Health Ministry, which keeps the official tally, has identified 27,127 deaths from coronavirus confirmed by a diagnostic test to May 31. But not all people who died of Covid-19 in the first wave of the pandemic in Spain were tested for the virus; the INE now estimates that this group includes 18,557 individuals.

Covid-19 was the leading cause of death during the first five months of the year, according to the INE. One out of every three victims between March and May was either diagnosed with the coronavirus or had symptoms compatible with the illness.

Between March and April, 62% of the victims died in a hospital, 30% at a care home, 5% in their own homes and the rest “elsewhere”

The impact of the coronavirus was such that deaths from infectious disease soared by 1,687% during the first five months of 2020, compared with the same period a year earlier. April was the worst month, when over 26,300 deaths were recorded. April 1 holds the record for most coronavirus-related fatalities: 1,636.

The INE obtained its figures from the death certificates filled out by medical staff at the time of passing. Statistics show that between January and February, fatalities fell 4.3% from the same period in 2019, and none of the deaths were recorded as coronavirus-related.

But between March and April, the number of deaths in Spain grew 44.8% compared with the same period in 2019, representing 47,105 more deaths. The elderly were the hardest hit: 87.1% of the deceased who were tested for the coronavirus were over 69 years of age, and 89.2% of those with related symptoms were over 74.

The INE also collected information about the place of death. Between March and April, 62% of the victims died in a hospital, 30% at a care home, 5% in their own homes and the rest “elsewhere.”

The INE’s statistics show that during the first five months of 2020, a total of 231,014 people died from all causes, a rise of 43,537 (23.2%) over the same period in 2019. This figure coincides with the excess deaths recorded during the first wave of the pandemic: between March 1 and June 2, there were 43,866 more deaths than would be normally expected for that period of time, according to civil registry records and the Mortality Monitory (MoMo) System run by the Carlos III Health Institute.

Between July and December, during the second wave of the pandemic, there were 26,900 excess deaths. Official Covid-19 deaths confirmed with a diagnostic test numbered 16,700, according to civil registry records. This is 10,200 more than what the Health Ministry has tallied.

After coronavirus deaths, during the first five months of the year, there was also a rise in fatalities from diabetes (18.6%), hypertension-related diseases (17.6%) and Alzheimer’s (13.7%), compared with the same period in 2019. These rises were sharper in March, April and May: 39.5%, 37.1% and 27.3%, respectively.

English version by Susana Urra.

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