Coronavirus incidence rate falls across Spain for the first time since November

The Health Ministry added 432 deaths to the official toll on Thursday, a data point that has not dropped below 500 since January 22

The intensive care unit of Clínico hospital in Valencia.
The intensive care unit of Clínico hospital in Valencia.Monica Torres

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants fell on Thursday with respect to Wednesday’s figures in all of Spain’s 17 regions and its two exclave cities, according to the latest Health Ministry report. In some cases, the fall was only small: in Navarre for instance the rate only dropped by 0.10. But such a uniform downward trend has not been seen since the end of November, before Spain recorded a new uptick in cases following public holidays in early December. Speaking at a government press conference on Thursday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), said that he hoped the downward trend would be maintained over the coming days.

The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain came in on Thursday at 783.25. This is the first time the incidence rate has fallen below 800 since January 20. The data point is now falling by more than 100 points a week. But even if this rate is maintained, it would take six or seven weeks before it reaches an acceptable level. This is, however, the number of weeks that remain until the Easter holidays, meaning there could be a new spike in cases, just when the situation is starting to get under control.

The 14-day incidence rate provides the strongest overview of the trend of the pandemic of all indicators, as the data point covers figures from a two-week period. But the number of new coronavirus cases is also falling. The Health Ministry reported 29,960 new infections on Thursday, down from 31,596 on Wednesday. The seven-day cumulative number of cases has also dropped. According to Thursday’s report, 208,424 infections have been detected in the past week. This data point has been falling uninterruptedly since January 26, when it reached 259,075. There have now been 2,913,425 confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain since the pandemic began, a figure that is likely to reach three million next week.

The death toll in Spain from the coronavirus now stands at 60,802

The Health Ministry added 432 Covid-19 deaths to the official toll on Thursday. This data point has not fallen below 500 since January 22. It is also the second day in a row that fatalities have dropped, a point that could indicate that the fall in new coronavirus cases will start to be consistently reflected in the number of deaths. Three weeks have now passed since January 15, when Spain recorded a record-high number of new infections, according to data adjusted by date of diagnosis from the Carlos III Health Institute. This delay is typical given that several days can pass before a Covid patient’s condition starts to worsen. The death toll in Spain from the coronavirus now stands at 60,802, but this figure only includes victims whose diagnosis was confirmed by tests.

The pressure on Spain’s hospitals has also been easing since Monday. On Thursday, Covid-19 patients occupied 22.78% of all hospital beds. As with the number of new cases and the incidence rate, this data point is falling at an accelerated rate: it dropped 5.08% since last Thursday and 1.87% since Wednesday. But this downward trend has only been recorded over the past few days and can still change.

The same is true for Spain’s intensive care units (ICUs). On Thursday, 44.36% of all ICU beds were occupied by a Covid-19 patient, down from 44.44% on Wednesday. The pressure on ICUs has been easing since Monday, when the occupancy rate was 45.30%, but it is happening at a very slow pace. In La Rioja and the North African exclave city of Melilla, the indicator is still above 70%, and it was up from Wednesday’s figure. And in 13 of Spain’s 19 territories (17 regions and two exclave cities Melilla and Ceuta), Covid-19 patients occupy more than 35% of all ICU beds, a threshold considered to put the healthcare system at risk of being overwhelmed. Simón has said that the occupancy rate in hospitals has likely reached its peak, but that this is not the case for the country’s ICUs.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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