CORONAVIRUS

Spain adds 724 Covid deaths to official toll, the highest figure since the first wave

According to the latest data, the national incidence rate has fallen slightly and pressure on intensive care units has eased for the first time since December 31

Nurses in the intensive care unit at Bellvitge hospital.
Nurses in the intensive care unit at Bellvitge hospital.Albert Garcia / EL PAÍS

The latest coronavirus report from Spain’s Health Ministry, which was released on Tuesday evening, reflects the increased mortality from Covid-19 that is a result of the ongoing third wave of the health crisis. Some 724 victims were added to the overall death toll in the figures supplied by the ministry, which is the highest daily increase since the first wave last spring. It is also only just lower than the figure of 762 reported on Monday, a day when the figures for Friday, Saturday and Sunday are released.

When looking at the cumulative number of Covid deaths over the previous seven days, which is the most reliable indicator given that it is not subject to unusual spikes, this figure exceeded 3,000 deaths in a week for the first time on Tuesday (3,006, to be exact). This is more than triple the 956 reported on January 4. In total, the Spanish Health Ministry has recorded 59,805 official coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began, although the real number is much higher due to the lack of testing available at the outset of the crisis last year.

A total of 29,064 positive cases were reported on Tuesday, a data point that had not fallen below 30,000 since January 12

Meanwhile, the statistics covering new infections are more promising. On Tuesday, a total of 29,064 positive cases were reported, a data point that had not fallen below 30,000 since January 12. In terms of the seven-day cumulative figure for new infections, the total was 222,052 in Tuesday’s report, confirming a downward trend that began on January 26, when it exceeded 259,000. This data point has been above 200,000 since January 15, which indicates that the transition from a rising trend to a falling one is very slow and gradual. It also means that any spike will break this trend. In total, there have been 2,851,869 confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain. At this rate, by the end of this week or the beginning of the next, the number will exceed three million.

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants has been falling for a week now, going from 893.91 on Tuesday, January 25, to 846.84 in the latest ministry report, which also confirms the downward trend in new infections. In 12 of Spain’s territories, the data point is now below what it was a week ago.

Tuesday’s data also shows some sign of relief for the country’s hospitals. Occupation of regular beds by Covid-19 patients is down slightly, falling from 24.96% on Monday to 24.18% on Tuesday. None of Spain’s regions currently exceeds 40% – in Monday’s report, Valencia was as high as 41%. There are still six regions, however, where the percentage exceeds 25%, a level considered high risk.

While the data from one day cannot be considered a trend, the situation in the country’s intensive care units (ICUs) has also improved, according to the latest ministry report, for the first time since December 31. Occupation of ICU beds is now at 44.58%, down from 45.3% on Monday. This indicator is important for two reasons: it is the resource that is hardest to improvise (although hospitals have managed to duplicate their capacity since the pandemic began), and it is also a parameter that helps to predict the trend in Covid deaths. If the demand for ICU beds falls, so will the number of fatalities. Currently, only the Canary Islands have an ICU bed occupation rate lower than 25%. In the region of La Rioja and the North African city of Melilla, the rates are as high as 72.4% and 71.6%, respectively, and continue to grow.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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