Spain’s coronavirus death toll has risen to 19,478, with the government reporting 585 new fatalities in the last 24 hours.
The number of new infections again rose more than the previous day, with 5,252 new positive tests.
This is up from yesterday’s figure of 5,183, marking the third consecutive day of increases after beginning to fall earlier in the week.
However, the number of total deaths in the country on Thursday was recorded as 19,130, contradicting the Spanish government’s new fatality data of 585.
The new figure of 19,478 suggests 348 deaths have been recorded since yesterday, less than the figure released by the government, who acknowledge the discrepancy and said a revised counting mechanism made the figure hard to compare with previous daily tolls.
Overnight, it issued revised guidelines for reporting deaths in order to make the data more uniform from the country’s 17 autonomous regions in an apparent move to eliminate any deaths where the patient had not been tested for COVID-19.
It ordered all regions to change their policy on reporting deaths, infections and recoveries by ensuring that all deaths of people who had tested positive for the virus are recorded, whether the death occurred in a hospital, a home or a care home.
This methodology has proven controversial with Madrid and Catalonia, the two worst-hit regions, who this week insisted they had thousands more victims than the official count.
This graph shows the daily number of coronavirus cases recorded in Spain. Today’s figure of 5,252 was higher than yesterday’s 5,183 and the highest in a week
According to Spanish news source El Dia, the discrepancy in the figures was noticed during a press conference being given by Fernando Simón, a Spanish epidemiologist who is serving as the Director of the Center for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies in the Ministry of Health.
During the press conference, Simón gave the overnight death toll figure of 585, contradicting the difference between today’s total death figure and yesterday’s.
Simón said that the Ministry is ‘trying to correct the historical series’ of data so that it is more uniform across the different regions in Spain, saying the figures are ‘a little distorted’ by the performance of rapid tests, an alternative to the standard PCR tests.
‘We’ve had a problem with one autonomous region that was using two sources of information, and we’ve come across some information that lacks the consistency we try to ensure when we offer figures,’ he told reporters.
For example, the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia only sends the ministry data on people who have died in hospital.
He added that the new data based on the changes to how the country now reports death statistics would also revise historical data, and said ‘until the epidemic is over’ it would be difficult to gauge the true impact the coronavirus has had.
The President of Spain’s opposition party PP (People’s Party), Pablo Casado, called the confusion over the figures regrettable on Twitter, saying: ‘It is regrettable that the government today casts doubt on the death count. It refuses to decree mourning and prohibits its mayors from doing so.’
Pictured: A resident of a nursing home is taken in a wheelchair to a hospital in Barcelona after displaying coronavirus symptoms. An estimated 11,600 people have died in social service residences
Up until now, official figures from the Ministry of Health have only included deaths of people who have tested positive for Covid-19. However, many people will have likely died outside of hospitals or having not been tested, meaning the total number of deaths could be much higher.
According to El Pais, at least 11,600 people have died in care homes as a result of the coronavirus, including those in homes for seniors and the disabled. While not all have tested positive for the virus, they showed symptoms consistent with that of Covid-19.
These figures would make up around two-thirds of the total number of deaths that have officially been recorded by the government so far. It is not known how many of the 11,600 people calculated by El Pais to have died in social service residences have been included in the government’s total figures.
Catalonia’s health department announced on Wednesday an additional 3,242 coronavirus deaths, nearly doubling its previous tally, as it included suspected and confirmed COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and private homes for the first time. These revised Catalan numbers have not been included in the official count.
Healthcare workers in protective gear treat patients on ventilators at the intensive care unit of the Povisa Hospital in Vigo, northwestern Spain
The number of overall confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 188,068 on Friday from 182,816 on Thursday, a 2.9% increase of 5,252.
The case increase was larger than the previous day that saw 5,183 new positive tests. Today’s figure is the highest for a week in the country.
The total number of deaths in Spain is third highest in the world after the United States and Italy.
Spain has been under lockdown since March 14, and wants to expand its testing capacity to more than 20,000 a day with a view to lifting it in certain areas.
Madrid was again the worst hit area for new cases in Spain with 1,299, up from 1,168 yesterday. Catalonia had another 962, according to the Spanish health ministry, up from 849 yesterday.
Around 60 per cent of deceased patients in Spain have been aged eighty or over, with nearly 87 per cent aged at least seventy.
The Spanish government has reported that 72,968 people have recovered from the disease in Spain.
The vast majority of cases have been confirmed by standard PCR tests, although some infections are listed under the heading of ‘rapid tests’.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez has promised to expand testing to allow for the lockdown to be eased in certain areas.
‘Spain is already one of the countries making the most daily tests. More than 20,000, and we are increasing the number,’ Sanchez told a near-empty parliament yesterday.
Officials say testing for the virus has to be expanded to include people who have mild or no symptoms, to track the spread in more detail.
The government also said last week it would carry out mass antibody tests on the blood of 60,000 randomly chosen people over three weeks, to begin identifying those who might in theory now be immune after exposure to the virus.
However, health and virology experts are not yet certain about the quality of such tests, or how much immunity such antibodies might provide.
Britain and Germany are among many countries who are keen on antibody tests but have not yet identified a reliable one.
The 5,252 cases today mark a third straight day of increase after 5,183 yesterday and 3,045 on Wednesday, which was the lowest figure since March 20.
Some inflation could be ascribed to a backlog from the long Easter weekend, which has also surfaced in other countries’ figures.
The Spanish government is keen to restart whatever businesses it can as soon as possible, especially ahead of what would usually be the tourist season.
The International Monetary Fund has said Spain’s economy is likely to suffer an eight per cent slump this year, partly because of the collapse in tourism.
A healthcare is pictured using coronavirus testing kits in a lab at the Clinica CEMTRO in Madrid, Spain on Thursday
Spain’s debt-to-GDP ratio is projected to hit 113 per cent, its highest level in over a century, with a budget deficit of 9.5 per cent which would be the largest in the eurozone.
The IMF said unemployment, already the highest in the European Union, would jump to nearly 21 per cent from 14 per cent last year.
‘Those levels of unemployment are not sustainable,’ European Central Bank Vice-President Luis de Guindos told Onda Cero radio.
Some workers have resumed their jobs in sectors including construction and manufacturing after a two-week ‘hibernation’ expired this week.
But with most people still confined to their homes, other businesses such as shops, bars and restaurants will stay closed until at least April 26.
The government said on Wednesday it would begin to hold meetings with opposition leaders on a ‘pact for the social and economic reconstruction of Spain’.
The proposal is inspired by the 1977 ‘Pacts of Moncloa’ which aimed to transform the state-run economy after the end of the Franco dictatorship.