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Why does Spain have the highest virus mortality rate on the planet?

The aging population and the strong impact on residences are the main causes of the deadly incidence of the coronavirus, according to experts

Spain began the fourth week of isolation on Monday as the country that has suffered the most deaths from the coronavirus in relation to its population. With 13,055 deaths, 28 per 100,000 inhabitants, it has already surpassed Italy and is trying to find a way out of the worst health crisis in the last century, as the minister for the sector, Salvador Illa, described it.

The trend observed a week ago in the ED, with a drop in patients attending these services, has been consolidated. This good news has been followed by a decrease in admissions, which in turn has somewhat eased the pressure on intensive care units (ICU). The 637 new deaths in the Ministry of Health count are the lowest daily figure since 24 March, although the fact that the figure was for a Monday means that the figure must be taken with caution due to the under-reporting observed at other weekends (the Health Department provided the information sent by the communities on Sunday night on Monday).

The “aging of the population”, with a high proportion of chronic diseases, and the impact of the virus in residences, are some of the reasons that may explain the high numbers of deaths in Spain compared to other countries, says Pere Godoy, president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology: “It also influences how the cause of death is determined, if by the virus or by the basic diseases suffered by the patient, which is not being done in a homogeneous way in all countries and this reduces the value of comparisons,” he adds.

To the demographic and registration reasons, José María Martín Moreno, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Valencia adds another assistance one: “It is possible that our early identification has been behind countries like Germany and Korea, which bet on massive tests that allowed to isolate the infected and cut the transmission chains” before the virus reached the most vulnerable groups. This, he adds, has been helped by the fact that in recent years “not enough has been invested” in the public network.

Highly populated areas

Jesús Rodríguez Baño, head of Infectious Diseases at the Virgen Macarena Hospital (Seville) points out that there have been very high levels of community transmission in Spain and Italy. “Studies are needed, but it probably also has to do with how we relate socially, closer physically. And the fact that Madrid and Catalonia have been the areas most affected coincides with northern Italy. These are densely populated areas,” he explains.

Regarding the first response to the crisis, Rodríguez Baño states: “It is true that with more tests and isolation, the transmission chains could have been cut off before they reached the most vulnerable groups. But I want to be very humble, because in a way we were all wrong in the early stages. It’s easy to see that now, but that should help us learn and study what happened in depth,” he adds.

Story of a collapse

Salvador Illa pointed out with regard to the diagnostic tests that the Government has allocated “845 million euros” in three weeks for the purchase of tests, respirators and masks. “We have achieved a regular and permanent supply […] to complement the purchases of the communities,” he said.

Illa, who described the coronavirus epidemic as “the biggest health emergency in 100 years”, defended that the million rapid tests distributed by the Health Department among the autonomous regions “will serve to make a rapid screening” that can later be complemented with PCR tests, slower, but more reliable. On the recommendation that the entire population should wear masks, the minister assured that “national production is being activated”, but added: “This measure is being studied, it has not been decided”.

Oriol Güell
Michelangelo Medina
Barcelona / Madrid – 07 Apr 2020 – 08:48 CEST

Information on www.elpais.com translated deepl photo MaP