Spain’s coronavirus incidence rate has risen for the fourth day in a row. According to the latest Health Ministry report, released on Wednesday, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 201.16 – the highest figure in nine days. The rise in the incidence rate – which is considered the most accurate measure of the spread of the virus – comes as Spain heads into the Christmas holidays, when more travel and family gatherings are expected to take place.
“It is an upward trend, as we have seen in the previous days,” said Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa at a press conference on Wednesday following a meeting of the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System, which brings together central and regional healthcare chiefs. At the meeting, the Health Ministry called on regional governments to consider even tighter coronavirus restrictions for the holidays if epidemiological figures keep getting worse. Some regions have already announced new measures, or said these are being considered.
The Health Ministry reported 11,078 infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day figure since November 26
Several Spanish regions have reported a particularly sharp rise in incidence rate. The worst affected region is the Balearic Islands, where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has jumped to 307.01 – an increase of 100 points in two weeks. The Basque Country has the second-highest incidence rate (266.69), but the figure is remaining stable. This data point has also increased significantly in Madrid (248.4), Castilla-La Mancha (244.14) and the Valencia region (239). These regions are approaching the threshold of 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which the Health Ministry considers an indication of “extreme risk.” In all of them, the spike has happened in the past week. The same is happening in Catalonia (214.96).
The number of new coronavirus cases is also rising. On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported 11,078 infections, the highest single-day figure (data from Monday includes the weekend) since November 26. Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), said on Monday that the rise was “probably” due to the relaxation of some restrictions ahead of the long weekend in early December. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 1,773,290. However, a recent serological study from the Carlos III Health Institute has indicated that the real total could be closer to five million infections.
The positivity rate, i.e. the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive out of the total, is also on the rise. This data point increased on Wednesday for the third day in a row and now stands at 7.95%. This is low when compared to the positivity rate of 12% that was recorded a month ago, but is nevertheless a figure to take into account because it is rising again. Valencia is the Spanish region with the highest positivity rate (15.66%), which is above the threshold of “extreme risk” as defined by the Health Ministry’s alert system. It is followed by Castilla-La Mancha (13.65%) and Aragón (11.14%).
According to Wednesday’s report, 195 Covid-19-related deaths were added to the official toll, the lowest number since October 29. But it is too soon to know whether this trend will continue, given that the number of fatalities in previous days was close to 400. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 48,596 people have died from Covid-19. This official toll, however, does not count the thousands of victims who died in the first wave without being tested for the virus, and were therefore not included in the tally.
Pressure on Spain’s hospitals is also easing. Covid-19 patients now occupy 20.5% of intensive care units (ICUs), down from 30% a month ago, and 9.21% of hospital beds, down from 15.54% in November.
English version by Melissa Kitson.