Spain reports 356 Covid-19 deaths, the highest single-day figure in three weeks

According to the latest Health Ministry report, the coronavirus incidence rate is now rising at an accelerating pace, with “concerning” spikes in cases detected in several regions

A physiotherapist with a Covid-19 patient in the intensive care unit of Ramón y Cajal hospital in Madrid in October 2020.OSCAR DEL POZO (AFP)

Spain’s coronavirus incidence rate is rising at an accelerating pace. That’s according to the latest report on the epidemiological situation from the Spanish Health Ministry, released on Thursday evening. The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 134.08. This data point has been steadily rising since March 16, when it fell to its lowest level of the third wave: 127.8. Although the increase has been gradual, it is picking up speed. On Thursday, the incidence rate was up 4.61% from last week’s figure, while on Wednesday the weekly rise was just 3.37%.

Indeed, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants rose on Thursday from the day before in all but six territories: Asturias, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Murcia, Valencia and the North African exclave city of Ceuta. “There are spikes in multiple regions that are of concern to us,” Health Minister Carolina Darias told Congress during a health commission on Thursday.

The health minister also highlighted another worrying data point: the seven-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 is more than 50% of the 14-day rate in five regions and close to that threshold in three others. According to Darias, this indicates that transmission of the virus is accelerating and that the fourth wave of the pandemic has already begun, albeit timidly.

After the third wave, where the effort was focused on saving Christmas, we realized that was a mistake
Health Minister Carolina Darias

Darias, however, said she was confident that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines would be able to contain the pandemic. “We only have a little way to go before we are out of the tunnel, but we still have to be prudent,” she said, adding that the vaccination drive was Spain’s “great hope” to “progressively” improve the situation.

Spain is due to receive around 30 million doses of the vaccine in the second quarter of the year and vaccines are expected to become more readily available as pharmaceutical companies ramp up production. Spain is also expected to receive 5.5 million doses of the Janssen vaccine, which only needs one shot for full protection, in this period. According to Darias, the influx of doses will allow the vaccination drive “to pick up more speed.” “I understand perfectly that we are all tired and that it is difficult to maintain measures for such a long time, but I want to insist that it is of the utmost importance that, between all of us, we contain this upward trend that we are in so that it does not continue, and avoid, as far as possible, a fourth wave and allow time for the vaccination drive to progress.”

The health minister also recognized that the measures adopted in December by the regions and central government in a bid to “save Christmas” – such as allowing some inter-regional travel to visit family – led to a spike in cases. “After the third wave, where the effort was focused on saving Christmas, we realized that was a mistake,” she told Congress.

A total of 35,406 cases were recorded in the last seven days, 430 more than the same period last week

The Health Ministry reported 6,393 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, more than any other single-day figure from last week. As a result, the seven-day cumulative number of infections continues to rise. A total of 35,406 cases were recorded in the last seven days, 430 more than the same period last week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 3,247,738 coronavirus cases have been recorded.

It is too soon for this rise to be reflected in hospitalizations, especially considering that part of the 80-and-over population and almost all residents of senior homes have now been vaccinated against the disease. But most Covid-19 cases reported are generally less serious. That said, the fall in occupancy rate has stabilized. The percentage of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) fell to 18.62% on Thursday, down from 18.64% the day before, while in general hospital wards, the drop was even smaller: from 6.24% to 6.23%.

The Health Ministry’s report added 356 fatalities to the official toll, the highest single-day figure in three weeks. The number of deaths recorded over a seven-day period also continues to rise. On Thursday, this figure came in at 1,510, up from 825 a week ago. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of official victims stands at 74,420, although this total could be much higher given that many people died with Covid-19 during the first wave without being tested.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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