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COVID-19

REVEALED: True number of Spain’s coronavirus dead jumps by 18,000

Spain’s coronavirus death toll between March and May was amost 70 percent higher than the official count at the time, it has now emerged.

REVEALED: True number of Spain's coronavirus dead jumps by 18,000
Photo: AFP

More than 45,000 people died of Covid-19 in Spain between March and May, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said Thursday, giving a figure that exceeds the official toll by 18,000.

According to the INE, a total of 45,684 people died within that period, of which 32,652 were certified as having the virus, while another 13,032 died “of suspected (Covid), showing symptoms compatible with the illness”.

Figures released by the health ministry on June 1st put the total number of deaths from Covid-19 at 27,127 but the INE figure suggests a further 18,557 people died between March and May.

Adding the INE figures to the official number of deaths would push the total number of people who have died of the virus in Spain's outbreak to more than 65,500.

The INE figure reinforces the widespread suspicion that during the first wave of the pandemic, when hospitals and funeral homes were completely overwhelmed, many cases were not counted as part of the official coronavirus death toll.

Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative opposition People’s Party, accused the left-wing coalition government of hiding the real figures.

“Spain does not deserve a government that lies and hides Covid deaths. The INE confirms what we already knew and have been denouncing,” he tweeted.

 

“What difference would it make to give a figure that is a bit higher or lower when we're talking about 28,000 victims? Does it change anything?” wondered Fernando Simon, the health ministry's head of emergencies in an interview with El Pais newspaper in early July, referring to the death toll.   

Spain was particularly badly hit at the start of the pandemic and its death toll now stands at 47,019, the fourth-highest in Europe, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

Although the United Kingdom currently has the highest figure with more than 62,000 deaths, the new INE figures would push Spain into the lead.    

In terms of cases, the virus has so far infected more than 1.7 million people in Spain, placing it fourth within Europe after France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Last week, Amnesty International released a report on retirement homes in which it said close to half of the Covid deaths in Spain were believed to be elderly people who died in homes.

It said an upcoming Spanish government report was expected to put the figure at between 47 and 50 percent of the overall death toll.    

The number of Covid deaths has also provoked political infighting in Spain, with the leftwing coalition government repeatedly attacked by its right-wing and far-right opponents for playing down the death toll.

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COVID-19

Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.

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