CORONAVIRUS

Spain reports 36,435 new coronavirus cases and 591 deaths, the highest fatality figure of the third wave

The latest data shows that infections are plateauing, but the two-week incidence rate continues to rise

Health workers carrying out a PCR test outside a field hospital in Valencia.
Health workers carrying out a PCR test outside a field hospital in Valencia.Rober Solsona / Europa Press

The monitoring system has reflected this duality in the past: when the number of new coronavirus cases reaches a peak and starts to fall, the number of Covid-19 fatalities still takes time before it starts to descend. That is just what can be seen in the data supplied by the Spanish Health Ministry on Tuesday.

The number of diagnoses – which include those from previous days, and not just the last 24 hours – came in at 36,435 according to yesterday’s report, the same level seen a week ago and far from the 44,357 reported on Thursday, January 21. It is a clear signal that, as the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES) Fernando Simón said on Thursday, the new wave has now arrived at a plateau and should soon start to fall.

The improvement is still in the early stages, however, and is yet to be reflected in other data points, such as the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which came in at 894.91 on Tuesday. Last week, specialists who are closely tracking the progress of the pandemic in Spain, such as José Martínez Olmos, a professor from the Andalusian School of Public Health, predicted that this figure would hit 900 – and it is indeed nearly there. This indicator, which tracks the incidence over the previous two weeks, will still take time before it falls. For now, it is clear that the rise is slowing: 25% in a week, when seven days ago it was going up at rates of around 60%.

The official death toll now stands at 56,799, but excess death figures suggest the real number may be closer to 80,000

The peak is also being seen in another indicator: of the 2,629,817 confirmed infections detected in Spain since the pandemic began, 10%, i.e. 259,075, correspond to the last seven days.

But this slight improvement is not yet being seen in the number of deaths. The 591 added to the overall death toll in Tuesday’s report is the highest of the third wave, and the highest seen since the first wave, which ended in June 2020. The official total according to the Health Ministry is now 56,799, but this excludes many cases that were not confirmed at the outset of the health crisis. Excess death figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) suggest that the real toll is more like 80,000 people.

The pressure on the country’s hospitals continues to break records, with 24.1% of beds occupied by Covid patients – a total of 30,815, up 6,630 on a week ago. The situation in the country’s intensive care units (ICUs) is even worse, with 41.27% occupied by coronavirus patients, a total of 4,433 (compared to 3,416 a week ago). It should also be taken into account that if the health services had not improvised temporary ICU beds for the most seriously ill to the point that available spaces have more than doubled, those 4,500 patients would be occupying all of the spaces available at the outset of the pandemic.

That said, there is a slight fall in the rhythm of new hospital admissions. For example, across the country, the rise in patients was 25% over the last week, while last Tuesday the same figure was at 35.5%. In the ICUs, the situation is more stable. On Tuesday the occupancy rate had risen 22.5% in a week, while seven days ago the same figure was at 25%.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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