Spain Covid-19 death toll overtakes China

MADRID, 25 March 2020:

The number of Covid-19 related deaths in Spain jumped by 738 in the last 24 hours as the country surpassed China to become the second-deadliest global hotspot in the pandemic after Italy.

The health ministry today said 3,434 people had died from the virus in Spain since the beginning of the outbreak – more than the 3,281 reported by China, where Covid-19 first emerged late last year, while Italy remains the deadliest with more than 6,500 fatalities.

With 47,610 confirmed cases – roughly 38,000 active – it means Spain has a nationwide fatality rate of around 7.2%. New cases rose by 20% since the previous day.

Some 5,367 people have been discharged from hospital after recovering from Covid-19, a daily increase of 1,573, the health ministry said.

Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s emergency public health department, said the fatality ratio has levelled out in recent days – indicating Spain is approaching a peak in coronavirus cases.

“If we are not already at the peak, then we are close,” he said in his daily briefing.

The new figures were released halfway through a crucial week for Spain as authorities monitor whether a draconian national lockdown adopted 11 days ago has led to a flattening of the curve of new infections.

Some 5,367 people have been discharged from hospital having recovered from Covid-19, a daily increase of 1,573, the health ministry said and a total of 3,166 people have been admitted to ICU across the country.

But concerns have been raised over the welfare of the country’s health care workers after figures showed they accounted for more than 13% of Covid-19 cases in Spain, an issue the government has put down to difficulties accessing a highly competitive market for protective gear and equipment.

A Madrid judge today ruled the local health ministry had a “legal obligation” to protect health workers in the capital and provide them with enough equipment to meet “minimum safety requirements,” following a complaint from the AMYTS medical union.

A similar case from the national CESM medical union is pending at the Supreme Court.

Simon said protective resources were difficult to acquire. “There is an international fight to get them,” he told the press briefing.

He dismissed any suggestions however that Spain’s medical staff were reaching the end of their moral tether in the crisis.

“I don’t think health professionals have a moral limit, their morality is bullet proof,” said Simon, himself an epidemiologist. “They can reach their physical limit, yes.”

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen today announced an order of protective gloves, masks and overalls secured by the EU would be delivered to Spanish hospitals in two weeks.

She added that Spain could be eligible for €11 billion from the bloc’s emergency coronavirus fund and that €20 billion had already been approved to help protect small businesses and the unemployed.