CORONAVIRUS

Spanish Health Ministry reports more than 47,000 coronavirus infections, 909 Covid deaths over weekend

The overall incidence of cases continues to fall across Spain, but the authorities are warning that people should not ‘drop their guard,’ with a possible fourth wave on the way

A health worker on Monday in the ICU department of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, in Pamplona.
A health worker on Monday in the ICU department of the San Juan de Dios Hospital, in Pamplona.Alvaro Barrientos / AP

The third wave of the coronavirus in Spain is having a major effect on the number of Covid-19 fatalities. After the incidence shot up, followed by hospital admissions and intensive care unit (ICU) patients, the curve of the number of patients dying after testing positive for the disease is on the rise. On Monday, the Health Ministry reported 909 deaths, in figures that cover Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This is the highest weekend number since the first wave of the health crisis, last spring.

The government also reported 47,095 new infections, although the incidence of positives remains on a downward trend: the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants came in at 667.33, compared to 750.77 on Friday.

A fourth wave is possible. It depends how this one goes down
Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts

Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), warned on Monday that the public should “not let their guard down.” He explained that the incidence is likely to continue falling, but that “practically all of the regions are in a situation of very high risk.”

Last Monday, the Health Ministry reported 762 Covid deaths, while on Tuesday the indicator reached a daily peak since the first wave with 724 fatalities. The data is likely to continue to rise, reflecting the high rate of new infections several weeks ago. “We will not see a clear and significant fall in fatalities until the weekend,” Simón warned.

While the curve of new infections has been falling for some days, the incidence rate continues to be very high – far from the 250-mark that the Health Ministry designated as high risk. Apart from the Canary Islands, which has a 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants of 157, all of the country’s territories are well above the maximum levels that the ministry considers as having the pandemic under control. Valencia, with an incidence of 995, is in the worst situation. La Rioja and Castilla y León, meanwhile, are also above 900 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days.

The fall in the incidence, meanwhile, has still not been reflected in hospitals, where the high pressure on the system persists. Admissions are falling, but at a very slow rate. There are currently 27,739 people hospitalized with Covid, meaning that one in every five conventional hospital beds is occupied by a coronavirus patient. Simón explained on Monday night that ICU admissions are also falling and may have peaked already, but he warned: “The data from today are slightly lower in terms of ICU occupation, but we still have huge pressure. These are very high numbers that are seeing a lot of hospitals have to reprogram their routine activity, and that’s a problem for the health system.” According to the Health Ministry, 4,732 people with Covid are in ICUs, meaning that 43% of emergency-care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.

Coronavirus patients occupy one in five conventional hospital beds and 43% of emergency-care beds

With this scenario on the table and the certainty that the number of deaths will continue to rise in the coming days, the CCAES director insisted that coronavirus restrictions should not be relaxed. In fact, he did not rule out a fourth wave of the pandemic in Spain, albeit one that is less serious thanks to the ongoing vaccination program. “A fourth wave is possible,” he said. “It depends how this one goes down, and the low level of transmission that we manage to achieve with this one and how it progresses in the coming weeks. If there is a fourth wave, as there will be more of the population with immunity, the probability of that wave being large and quick will fall. It is likely that there will be a wave of smaller scale and slower speed, something that will give us a margin to apply progressive control measures.”

Simón warned, however, that the new variants of the virus will play an important role in an eventual fourth wave. “If the British variant occupies a space in our territory, the slower fourth wave that is expected could accelerate slightly,” he said. The Health Ministry has confirmed 479 cases of the more-contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom, but it has admitted that there will be many more out there. Two cases of the South Africa variant have been detected in Spain, while there is another person who was infected with the more virulent Brazilian strain, Simón explained.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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