Coronavirus: Hope for Spain as plateau in deaths and cases appears to take hold

The number of people dying and testing positive for coronavirus in Spain appears to begin to plateau. 

With around 13,800 deaths and more than 140,000 confirmed cases, Spain is one of the two hardest hit countries in the world alongside Italy.

The deaths and confirmed cases in Spain have risen steadily since the outbreak hit the country, with the 50th death recorded on 11 March.

However, the country appears to be turning a corner, with both the number of cases and deaths beginning to level out – something many refer to as “flattening the curve” in reference to when the data is plotted on a chart.

On Monday, coronavirus deaths in Spain slowed for the fourth day in a row, with emergency rooms in Madrid returning almost to normal a week after being stretched to breaking point.

That day Spain reported 637 deaths over the previous 24 hours, a further drop from the 674 on Sunday, 809 on Saturday, 932 on Friday and 950 on Thursday.

It is the lowest number of deaths in 13 days, with the 950 people whose deaths were recorded on Thursday 2 April making up the highest daily death toll since the outbreak.

However, on Tuesday the number of people dying jumped again. Some 743 people’s deaths were recorded – which appeared to disrupt the steady decline – but the true picture is not as simple.

The way deaths and cases are recorded over the weekends in Spain means that some of the number of people who died on Saturday and Sunday are collected on Monday and then published the following day, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

“The small upturn that we usually see many Tuesdays, with data from Monday afternoon, we believe that in principle it does not have much importance,” said Maria Jose Sierra, an official with the Ministry’s Coordination Centre for Alerts and Health Emergencies.

She added: “We must continue to see what happens in the next days. We believe that it may be due to a certain delay in the notification of these days.”

Even with this increase, the number announced on Tuesday was below 800 – which is significant because before Sunday there were eight consecutive days with more than 800 people being reported as dying each day (from 28 March to 4 April).

Cases are also going down, with the highest daily number of confirmed cases on 31 March with 9,222 recorded on that day.

There has been a steady daily decline since 2 April until Tuesday, when 5,478 cases were recorded and took into account the infections noted over the weekend.

It is important to note these figures only account for confirmed cases and therefore it is likely there is a number of people with the virus who have not been tested and so do not show up in the official figures.

Spain has not tested as rigorously as countries such as Germany.

The positive signs can also be seen in the country’s intensive care units, with Spanish newspaper El Pais saying this week: “Intensive care units are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Similarly, doctors at what is now Spain’s largest hospital in Madrid told Sky News on Tuesday they are winning the battle against the coronavirus “little by little”.

With around 12% of patients in hospitals requiring intensive care, medical director Antonio Zapatero said when the disease hit it was like a healthcare “tsunami”.

More than 40,000 people in Spain have recovered from the virus, all of whom will now be immune to the virus, at least for some time.

Between this and the number of recoveries steadily increasing, Spain can begin to examine how it could deescalate the tough lockdown measures currently imposed across the country.

As part of that process, the government has outlined plans to test 30,000 households to draw the national map of the outbreak.

Other European countries have tentatively announced measures to partially lift their quarantine measures – something leaders across the continent will be monitoring, not least after attempts by Singapore and Japan stand as cautionary examples.

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