The improving coronavirus data in Spain is now being reflected by a fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths, according to the latest report on the pandemic from the Health Ministry, which was released on Tuesday evening. For the first time so far this year, the daily number of coronavirus victims has fallen below 200, to 192 in yesterday’s figures. While the number is still high, there were fewer Covid deaths than there were due to cancer in the last seven days in Spain (1,722 compared to 2,100). In total, since the pandemic began, Spain has recorded 69,801 deaths after a positive Covid infection was detected.
The fall in the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is ongoing, according to Tuesday’s report, coming in at 168.44. This is 28.58% down on the week before, which confirms what Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), pointed out on Monday: the descent is slowing down. For example, the incidence was dropping at a rate of more than 40% just two weeks ago.
The national incidence rate fell 28% upon last week‘s figures, but rose in Asturias, the Canary Islands, and the North African cities of Ceuta and Melilla
This trend is adding to the debate that will hang over the coronavirus data during the month of March: if the figures continue to improve, should restrictions be lifted? The scientific response so far is that the answer isn’t clear. The Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS), which brings together the country’s regional health chiefs and the Health Ministry, will soon be meeting to debate this issue. The ministry and the main scientific associations in the country are in favor of maintaining the measures, as are the majority of the regions. Others, such as Madrid, which has often been at loggerheads with the central government over Covid restrictions during the pandemic, are already suggesting lifting restrictions for Easter week.
While no specialist is willing to predict the forecast of a process that depends on a multitude of factors – new variants of the coronavirus, the speed of the vaccination campaign, the specifics of new vaccines due to come online – there are mathematical models that provide a clue. These rely on projecting where the curve of new cases will head based on the most recent data. This is something that is done often with exact sciences, but that in medicine is applied less because there are so many unpredictable factors.
EL PAÍS has turned to statisticians from a group called Nomorepandemics, and their prediction just adds fuel to the fire. If everything continues the way it is going now, they say, something that is already a risky proposition, the incidence would be driven down to around 50 in about three weeks’ time – just before Easter week begins. That’s a date that a scriptwriter would pick if they were looking to add suspense to the decision-making process.
Region by region
By territory, there are four areas in Spain where the incidence rose according to Tuesday’s report: Asturias (201.51), the Canary Islands (105.51), and the North African cities of Ceuta (311.41) and Melilla (380.4). With a 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants of 273.39, Madrid continues to be above the 250-mark considered to be extreme risk by the central government. Extremadura, Murcia, the Balearic Islands and La Rioja are still between 50 and 100, but no region has so far managed to fall below the half-century mark considered to be a target in terms of getting life back to normal.
Tuesday’s report included an adjustment of the data from Catalonia, which has purged duplicated cases from its figures. That means that the total number of coronavirus infections detected in Spain since the pandemic began fell from 3,204,531 on Monday to 3,130,184 on Tuesday (74,347 fewer). If the figures from this region are excluded, just 4,517 new infections were added to the total on Tuesday, which also reflects a fall. The last-single day figure, on Friday, came in at 5,589 if Catalonia is also excluded.
Hospitalizations and intensive care unit (ICU) occupation is also falling. Regular hospital beds registered an occupation rate by Covid patients of 9% in Tuesday’s report, compared to 11% a week ago. Not since December 24 has this indicator come in so low. As for ICU beds, the occupation rate is 27%. A week ago the figure was 32%, and not since January 12 has the percentage been this low.
English version by Simon Hunter.