The coronavirus is spreading in Spain at a slightly slower rate, according to data released on Tuesday by the Spanish Health Ministry. On Monday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), said that Spain could be reaching the peak of the third wave of the virus, and there are indications in the latest figures that suggest this could be the case, although the data must be viewed with caution. For example, for the first time since January 7, a region has reported a drop in the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Indeed three regions registered a fall in their incidence rate: the Balearic Islands (-0.31%), Cantabria (-0.98%) and Catalonia (-1.54%). On the opposite end of the spectrum, the incidence rate in Extremadura has risen to 1,412.
The national 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 714.21, a rise of 3.62%. To put this in context, Spain’s incidence rate fell to below 10 at the end of the first wave, following a strict months-long home lockdown. And in the Madrid region, the regional government introduced perimetral lockdowns of healthcare zones – areas smaller than a city district that can include several primary healthcare centers – when the incidence rate rose above 700.
According to the ministry’s report, a total of 2,370,742 coronavirus cases have been detected since the beginning of the pandemic
According to the latest data, 34,292 new coronavirus cases were reported on Tuesday, the lowest figure since January 13. Despite this, the number of infections detected in the past seven days is the highest seen since the beginning of the pandemic: 233,523. A month ago, 66,661 cases were reported over a seven-day period, meaning this data point has risen 250%. According to the ministry’s report, a total of 2,370,742 coronavirus cases have been detected since the beginning of the pandemic.
The rise in infections is already having a clear impact on Spain’s hospitals. There are currently 24,185 Covid-19 patients in hospital, meaning 19.25% of all hospital beds are occupied by patients with the disease. This data point has risen 10 points since the end of the year. Intensive care units (ICUs) are also under pressure, with 33.69% of ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, a rise of 12.5 points since the end of 2020.
The spike in cases and growing number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also impacting Covid-19-related fatalities. Just on Tuesday, the Health Ministry added 404 deaths to the official toll. This is close to 455 victims reported on Monday, which includes fatalities registered since Friday, as data is not released on the weekends. The number of deaths recorded in the past seven days – a data point that fluctuates less as it is not affected by underreporting over the weekend – stands at 1,494. Two weeks ago, the weekly number of fatalities was 997. The official death toll since the beginning of the pandemic now stands at 54,173, although the real figure is likely to be much higher as many victims died during the first wave before their coronavirus diagnosis could be confirmed.
In response to the worsening epidemiological figures, several regions have called on the central government to allow earlier curfew times. Under the current state of alarm, there is a curfew between 11pm and 6am, but regional authorities are allowed to bring it forward or back by an hour. Several regions, however, want to be able to impose a curfew from 8pm. Only Madrid, where the curfew has been brought forward from midnight to 11pm, has ruled out such a move on the grounds that it would hurt the hostelry industry. The Madrid region is now reporting worse figures than it did during the first wave of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants stood at 800, up from 277 a month ago.
English version by Melissa Kitson.