The proliferation of outbreaks during the holidays continues to put the health system under pressure, especially in the worst-affected areas. The epidemic slows down in Spain, but its effects continue
The daily number of infections, as well as the incidence of the virus, have been stable throughout this week, both in the country as a whole and in the most affected community, Madrid. However, and waiting for the new situation to be confirmed in the near future, the rise of the epidemic in recent weeks is still taking a significant price in the form of pressure on primary care and hospitals, especially in the most affected areas.
When the month of September started, in full swing of cases, there were 6,807 patients with Covid-19 hospitalized, 823 of them in ICUs. 6% of the country’s beds were occupied by people with coronavirus, as reflected in the Health report of day 1. A week and a half later, according to the data updated on Thursday, the number of admitted patients amounts to 8,401, of which 1,136 require intensive care. The number of people in the ICU has therefore grown by 38% so far this month, while the percentage of occupancy in hospitals has risen to 7.4%.
The figures, which vary greatly from one region to another, are far from what happened in the worst moments of the pandemic but reflect an increase in pressure on health services that, even if the stabilization of the epidemic is confirmed, will continue kicking off as a lagging indicator of the rampant rally in recent weeks. Another piece of information that offers a picture of the epidemic with some delay, the number of deaths, points in the same direction. In the first report of the month, 159 people had died in Spain in the previous seven days. Ten days later, the figure rises to 249 deaths in the same interval.
According to the latest data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control ( ECDC ), Spain has a cumulative number of deaths in the last 14 days of 1.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. Only Romania (3.1) and Bulgaria (1.7) show higher figures in Europe. The data, again, is unparalleled with what happened last spring, especially if one takes into account that, as Fernando Simón, director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, recalled yesterday, the median age of people deceased in Spain has risen to 86 years. That is, half of those who die from Covid-19 are over that age.
Simón also analyzed the increase in the occupancy of ICU beds, after recalling that now in Spain “we have over 8,000 beds available” in these units, compared to the 7,000 that existed before the pandemic. “That means that the occupation we have would be below 15%,” he said, although he clarified: ” There are autonomous communities with a much higher occupation .”
MORE SATURATED SERVICES
In some of them, the occupancy of ICU beds for patients with COVID would be around 20%, a percentage that could rise to 30% for “a specific hospital.” “There are areas with much higher transmission right now than others, therefore, in these areas, primary care services are more saturated, their hospitals are more saturated and their ICUs are more saturated, ” reasoned the Health spokesman.
By communities, Madrid is the one with the most patients in intensive care (304), followed by Catalonia (151) and Andalusia (138). In contrast, on September 1, only Catalonia maintained a very similar level (152), while both Madrid (211) and Andalusia (82) have experienced a considerable increase in pressure in the ICU during these days. Madrid is also the one that suffers the most pressure on its hospitals, with 18% of beds dedicated to COVID.
The rapid increase in hospitalizations, intensive care, and deaths offer a delayed snapshot of the proliferation of outbreaks that we have suffered during the holidays. The recent stabilization of the epidemic, following the tightening of measures in all communities, should ease pressure on the health system, as well as reduce the number of deaths.
But this will be conditional on the return to normal activity not causing new outbreaks. “I think that stabilization is going to be confirmed, and it is true that now we must be very careful to see what happens with going back to work and going back to school, ” said Simón.