Misc 16/01/2021

431 covid-related deaths in Catalonia in one week, 59% more than during the previous 7 days

Spain already diagnoses 575 infections per 100,000 inhabitants

Gemma Garrido Granger
4 min
Imagen de archivo de una UCI en el hospital de la Vall d'Hebron

BarcelonaSome sixty people die every day in Catalonia due to the coronavirus. While the contagion curve is steadily steepening and hospitals are gradually filling up, funeral homes are reporting dozens of victims attributable to complications of the infection. Last week there were 431. In fact, between January 5th and 11th there was a peak in mortality. There have been 59% more deaths than in the previous week, when 271 were reported.

Deaths are the crudest consequence of the epidemic but also the indicator that takes the longest to manifest itself, in most cases between two and four weeks after infection. In Catalonia, the trickle of victims only stopped in the summer due to the effect of the total lockdown, and has continued at different speeds since September. In recent weeks, coinciding with the emergence of the third wave, it has accelerated and in just one month 1,170 people have lost their lives, 17,867 since last February.

Given the high level of transmission of the virus throughout the country, almost a third of the new deaths (122) correspond to people living in care homes and who are infected in outbreaks such as that of the Pere Màrtir Colomés Foundation in Solsona. This centre has accumulated 16 deaths since the end of December. Those over 70 years old continue to be the most vulnerable group due to their age and the previous pathologies they carry. If they also live in homes, the risk is even greater: they tend to have reduced mobility and suffer from dementia and cardiovascular problems.

"Older people have more serious conditions in the face of infections and with covid it is no different. The older you are, the less likely you are to pull through", Pedro Castro, intensive care coordinator at Hospital Clínic, explains. Yesterday, Catalan hospitals had more than 500 admissions to intensive care units (ICU), specifically 509. Castro recalls that during the first wave, three out of every ten positive admissions died. Now the mortality figure is between 15 and 20% of cases. "These are not negligible figures", he says.

Vaccine hopes are high

Vaccine hopes are high

For those most vulnerable to the virus, the vaccine means hope. Castro says it will prevent people who are exposed to the virus from developing the disease, and this should reduce both the number of serious cases entering hospitals and the number of deaths, especially among those over 60. "The vaccine will minimize the welfare impact of the virus. This is already happening with the flu: we don't prevent everyone from getting sick, but far fewer are admitted", he recalls.

The director of the Centro de Coordinación de Alertas y Emergencias Sanitarias (translated as Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies), Fernando Simón, is also confident that the vaccine's effect on mortality will begin to be felt within two weeks. At this point, 768,950 doses of Pfizer and Moderna have been given in Spain, 67% of the one million doses received. Of these, a total of 120,956 have been administered in Catalonia, 15,876 in a single day.

And while the vaccination campaign is picking up its pace, the epidemic is in a phase of expansion. This Friday the Health Ministry reported 40,197 positive cases and 235 deaths in Spain, and 575 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. With this last figure, the highest in the pandemic, the state has surpassed the peak of infections of the second wave, reached on November 9 with 529 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. According to Simón, this is due to the current diagnostic effort, which "has nothing to do" with that of the first wave.

"We must look at Europe"

In the last 14 days, 573 cases per 100,000 inhabitants have been detected in Catalonia. The R number currently stands at 1.35 - one hundred cases cause 135 infections - and more than 24,000 infections are being reported every week. According to a report by Salut based on information collected by covid managers, 70% of infections between October and December occurred within households, 58% among cohabitants and 11% from visits by friends and family.

To curb the growth of the curve that, while it has not accelerated, it has not stopped either, the Government extended on Thursday the municipal lockdown and closure of non-essential trade on weekends. The decision was criticized by some experts as insufficient. "It seems that we are waiting for things to get very ugly to propose more restrictive scenarios and if there is a lesson we should have learnt by now is that it is preferable to act and not expect a drastic increase", warns public health data analyst Joe Brew, who calls the coming weeks "very serious".

Brew points out that, unlike the second wave, the increase is taking place in parallel with other European countries. "It would be terrible to repeat the mistake of ignoring the danger of Italy and not looking now at Portugal or Ireland, which are already experiencing an acceleration", Brew says, and criticizes the governments for acting too late, once again.

Care homes to screen all visitors

The Health Department will give a rapid antigen test (TAR) to all citizens who visit people living in residential centres. If the screening result is positive, the visit will not be authorized and the family member will be referred to his or her primary care center. This is one of the new features of the plan to intensify measures to curb the growth of covid-19 infections in this phase of high community transmission. The department has also implemented universal screening with PCR with a nasal sample to all residents of all nursing homes or homes for people with disabilities, in order to be able to take appropriate measures to curb the virus.