The Spanish Health Ministry on Friday offered an updated coronavirus death toll after freezing the total for close to two weeks.
Just two days before Spain is due to lift the state of alarm and enter the “new normality” following a long deescalation process, health authorities placed the overall number of victims at 28,313, up from the figure of 27,136 that had been provided for the last 12 days.
Fernando Simón, the head of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, on Friday admitted that this figure is still far from the 43,000 excess deaths reported by Momo, a mortality monitoring system run by the Carlos III public health institute.
Simón noted that the official tally only counts victims who were tested for the coronavirus and whose tests came back positive. He did not rule out that this number might rise once the National Statistics Institute (INE) is done compiling its own list of fatalities and the cause of death, a task that will likely be completed sometime next year. Some of these cases could be so-called collateral deaths, representing people who waited too long to seek medical help out of fear of contracting the coronavirus.
Health Minister Salvador Illa said that after Sunday, visitors entering Spain will have to undergo three types of controls: a written health declaration, a temperature check, and a visual screening. If travelers fail any of these tests, a physician will examine them and send them to the healthcare services of the region where they are going to spend their stay in Spain. In order to make these procedures smoother, airports are incorporating thermal imaging and digital declarations.
During the last month, Spanish health authorities have detected 982 coronavirus cases connected to 34 outbreaks, according to the latest Health Ministry data. Some were traced back to slaughterhouses, others to residences, to parties, to healthcare centers, and in one case, to a mink farm in Teruel.
A public senior residence in Madrid, Doctor González Bueno – the largest facility of its kind in Spain and one of the biggest in Europe – has detected four new positives after testing all residents on Thursday, said regional officials. All four patients have been isolated and family visits at the center have been suspended temporarily.
“All the outbreaks are under control,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa on Friday, adding that if there is a new a significant rise in untraceable cases, the only available tool to limit mobility will be to declare a state of alarm once again. For small outbreaks, it will be possible to resort to a public health law to close off affected areas. This is what happened at the beginning of the pandemic, when a hotel in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, was placed in lockdown.
Situation in Madrid
The regional government of Madrid on Friday approved the new rules that will apply between Sunday and July 5. During that time, all businesses will have to operate at 60% capacity (80% for street cafés and restaurants). After that date, capacity will be raised to 75% (100% for outdoor drinking and dining). Face masks will remain mandatory when it is not possible to maintain a distance of 1.5 meters between people.
“The situation of the virus in the [Madrid region] is under control, although we remain prudent and vigilant,” said the regional health chief, Enrique Ruiz-Escudero. “Now our main concern is Adolfo Suárez-Madrid Barajas airport, due to imported cases.”
Although the country will exit the state of alarm on Sunday, Madrid – which was the epicenter of the pandemic in Spain – will keep some restrictions temporarily in place. “It is not prudent to establish specific dates for returning to normality, because there are things we don’t know,” said deputy premier Ignacio Aguado. “It all depends on the epidemic.”
English version by Susana Urra.