SPAIN’S COVID-19 death toll could be 60 per cent higher than the official tally thanks to substandard counting, an investigation reveals.
The nation’s official figure of 28,432 has been called into question after it was found to account for only those formally diagnosed and not suspected cases who were never tested.
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A lack of widespread testing, particularly in the early stages of the outbreak, means the official count could underestimate the virus’ toll, according to an investigation by El Pais published on Sunday.
The respected national publication counted regional statistics of all suspected and confirmed fatalities from coronavirus to reach a total of 44,868 deaths.
If accurate, that would make Spain’s outbreak the second deadliest in Europe after Britain’s.
“The truth is that the epidemiological situation in Spain is very uneven,” the investigation reports.
“There is a paradox that nine Spanish autonomous communities are below the current incidence in the United Kingdom.
“Among them, the archipelagos of the Canary and Balearic Islands, whose governments are trying to establish air corridors with the United Kingdom to try to save their tourist seasons.”
The majority of new cases in Spain seem to be restricted to a few regions, including Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, and Aragon.
Nearly 7,000 cases have been logged in Catalonia in the past 14 days, nearly half the nationwide total.
However, the health ministry has said it followed all international protocols in accounting for COVID-19 deaths and stressed that the higher number of deaths was reflected in other official indicators.
“There is evidence that in all pandemics there is an increase in indirect deaths,” it added.
The El Pais figure is roughly in line with figures from the National Epidemiology Centre and National Statistics Centre (INE) – both government institutions – which register excess mortality by comparing deaths across the country with historical averages.
In June, the INE reported 43,945 more deaths in the first 21 weeks of 2020 than in the same period of 2019, though it could not say how many could be attributed to the pandemic.
Spain’s rate of cases per 100,000 people is currently at 39.4, according to the European Union’s European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This compares with the UK’s rate of 14.6.
The news comes as Europe is on alert for a potential second wave in coronavirus cases.
Many European nations are seeing an increase in the number of virus cases as governments lift draconian lockdown measures to attempt to reignite their damaged economies.
Spain recorded its highest infection figure since May 11 with 2,615 new cases on Thursday, followed by 2,255 on Friday.
France meanwhile recorded 1,130 new infections on Friday as compared to just 81 when lockdown was eased at the end of May.
Germany has also seen an uptick in cases with 818 on Friday, its highest number since June 17.
The UK has taken steps to protect itself from Spain in light of the numbers of rising infections.
Thousands of tourists were ordered over the weekend to self-isolate for 14 days on their return from Spain or face a £1,000 fine after Covid-19 cases in the country rose to more than 1,000 a day.
In a move seen as controversial by many, Britain took Spain off its ‘air bridge’ list after the country saw a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases.
In a last-minute bid to save the country’s tourist industry from collapse, Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said “Spain is a safe country for tourists and for Spaniards”.
Tourism is Spain’s third largest industry accounting for around 11.7 per cent of the country’s GDP, according to the country’s Institute for National Statistics.
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