This week Spain has left the fifth wave of the pandemic behind. Coinciding with the beginning of the course, the incidence in the country is once again below 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a situation that had not been seen since the end of June. The summer wave took several provinces to record levels of incidence, but the general decrease in cases throughout the territory has meant that a quarter of them have already returned to the numbers of infections that were registered before the last rise in the curve.
Transmission has been falling rapidly for weeks. In all the provinces, with the exception of the autonomous city of Melilla, the current incidence is below half of that reached at the worst moment of the fifth wave. In addition, 29 of them have managed to reduce their incidence by 80% or more since the peak of infections registered this summer. The reduction in transmission throughout the country means that nine provinces have managed to lower the incidence below 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Although the lethality of the pandemic this summer has been much lower than in previous months, the cost of the fifth wave already exceeds 4,000 deaths during the months of July, August and what we have been in September. Palencia and Huesca have been the ones that have taken the worst part, registering about 30 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants during the summer. Hospitals were also refilled, although less than in the winter and fall waves. Only in a third of the provinces was there more than 10% of beds occupied by patients with COVID-19. Now there are none left in this situation.
To see the situation of the pandemic in Spain in more detail, the map above shows the main variables. First, the bed occupancy rate for COVID-19 patients in each province. Then, the general rate of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks and the trend of infections in each province, that is, if the cases are increasing 📈 or decreasing 📉. Finally, the total confirmed deaths in each province since the start of the pandemic are shown.
These data are published by the ISCIII (Instituto de Salud Carlos III) through the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network (RENAVE) and does so by date of diagnosis or, in its absence, the date of onset of symptoms or declaration. It must be taken into account that the data for the last week may be slightly underestimated due to the delays in notifications from the autonomous communities.
The data indicate that in the last two weeks the cases are not increasing 🟦 in any province, there is no province that is in the plateau phase ⬜, and they are decreasing 🟩 in the 52 provinces (in 51 of them at high speed 🟩 🟩 ). We show the curves of new daily cases in each province grouped according to their situation: from more alarming ⚠️ to more positive ✅. How many provinces have many cases per inhabitant and are they continuing to rise? Which ones have flattened the contagion curve? And in which cases are there few but the virus is spreading very fast? To avoid detection peaks on a specific day, the average of both figures including the last seven days has also been calculated.
👉 It is important to bear in mind that the current infection figures are not comparable with the curve recorded at the beginning of the pandemic. The number of tests carried out now compared to those that were carried out in March has nothing to do with it, and neither does the strategy. Eight months ago, only the cases of those people who came to hospitals in the most serious condition were detected, that is, “the tip of the iceberg.” Now mild cases are tested and a percentage of asymptomatic or presymptomatic is detected, thanks to contact tracing. Hence, the incidence record in January cannot be compared to the peak incidence reached in the first wave, but it can be compared to that of the second.
Since the pandemic began, the evolution of the stages of the disease has followed the same pattern: the rise in infections is noted first in hospitals, then in ICU admissions and, finally, in the death toll. And vice versa: the last indicator where the fall in infections is noted is deaths. But after March, this sequence was cut. Deaths barely rose after the increase in infections. This pattern was repeated in the last wave.
The drop in deaths since the end of March overlaps with the advance in vaccination. The more elderly population vaccinated, the more the deceased have fallen throughout the country. Although this latest wave has been the least lethal of the pandemic, the increase in infections has ended up noticing in mortality. Specifically, the Ministry of Health has reported 4,415 deaths from COVID-19 since July 1.
Aragon (16), Castilla-La Mancha (15.0) and Castilla y León (13.3) are the three communities that have reported the most deaths per 100,000 inhabitants this summer. La Rioja, Ceuta and Andalusia are the next in the ranking, with a rate of more than 10 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The rest of the territory is below that threshold, being the Valencian Community and Cantabria the regions that have reported fewer deaths in relation to their population since the beginning of the summer.
It must be taken into account that the communities notify their deceased with a long delay compared to confirmed cases, as explained by elDiario.es. Therefore, the data of the last weeks could be underestimated.
To have more information on each province, the following tab provides data on the most recent infections, deaths and hospitalizations in each of them as well as the trend of these indicators in recent weeks.
The provinces where hospitals are almost empty
The rapid fall in infections has not been symmetrical in the pressure of care, where the emptying of hospitals is being much slower than in previous waves. Some 5,000 people with COVID-19 are still admitted to Spanish hospitals.
However, many provinces have practically vacated most of their beds and coronavirus cases already represent a small part of their hospital activity. Specifically, there are 14 territories where the occupancy level is below 3% of the available places. In Soria, the province with the emptiest hospitals in all of Spain, only 3 patients with a COVID clinic have been admitted.
The following table allows ordering the provinces according to different criteria: the number of cases and the incidence per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days. The hospital occupancy levels and accumulated deaths in the last 30 days per 100,000 inhabitants are also shown.
The end of the fifth wave
The generalized fall in infections throughout the territory leaves especially positive data in up to 29 provinces, which have managed to reduce their incidence rate to 14 days by more than 80% compared to the worst moments in the July-August period. This group includes Madrid, Catalonia, Asturias, La Rioja, Navarra, the Balearic Islands, half of the Andalusian provinces and practically all of Castilla y León and Aragon. That is, the territories where the fifth wave exploded with the most virulence.
Of these, Asturias, Barcelona, Burgos, León, Palencia and Tarragona stand out, where this drop has been greater than 90%. Furthermore, in terms of incidence, 9 provinces are already below 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in two weeks. The positive record is taken by Asturias, which went from registering an incidence of over 600 cases to just over 50 today.
The following graph compares the curves of incidence in 14 days and daily deaths by diagnosis date of the 52 Spanish provinces. The figures are adjusted to the population of each one of them.