The epidemiologist-in-chief of the ministry of Health of Spain, giving an account of the situation every day, has himself acknowledged that the bulletins of the ministry that created “confusion” and “stupor,” since the methods of accounting of cases and deaths have been amended on the 25th of may.
June 13, 2020 9h38
Spain generates doubts in “freezing” the number of deaths from the coronavirus
MADRID — Spain’s “freeze” for days the total number of deaths from the coronavirus, thus leaving a room for doubt on the evolution of the epidemic in one of the countries most bereaved by the Covid-19.
Since 7 June, the counter of the dead is down to 27 136.
And the epidemiologist-in-chief of the Health ministry, Fernando Simon, who gives an account of the situation every day, has himself acknowledged that the bulletins of the ministry that created “confusion” and “stupor,” since the methods of accounting of cases and deaths have been amended on the 25th of may.
Until then, while the epidemic is in sharp decline, the department had 50 to 100 new death daily. But since this change of method, the figure has fallen to less than five, or no death during several days.
A situation that has led to the head of the government, the socialist Pedro Sanchez, to congratulate himself in front of deputies that Spain has reached the “zero death”. By doing this, he gave ammunition to the opposition of right and extreme-right that accuses the executive of hiding the real number of dead.
“The major danger is to communicate and convey the idea that the epidemic is ended, so that the virus is present in our country, although at a lower level”, warns el Salvador Macip, a professor of health Sciences at the open University of Catalonia.
“Source of misinformation”
Fernando Simon argued that the new system would more quickly identify outbreaks of contagion in the event of resumption of the epidemic.
The regions, competent in the field of Health, provide the data that the government compiles, but must now inform individual cases and with a specific date, and not the group as before.
Dr. Simon recognized that the total number of dead had been “frozen” due to “discrepancies” in the figures, in particular due to delays in some regions.
The overall picture therefore remains unchanged the time that “the regions are reviewing the data of death (…) to be able to assign them a date”, and thus provide a historical series reliable, he explained.
Some regions have ensured that they provide these data, but these were not recognized in the balance sheets.
This is the case of Andalusia – governed by the right – including the Health officer, Jesus Aguirre, who has accused the government of “miss totally of respect to the deceased,” giving “lower numbers” to those provided by the region.
The new system “gives too much importance to the reporting of data to the” sleep mode”, so that if they are sent too late by the regions, they are not counted in the total, is Kiko Llaneras, data analyst of the daily newspaper El Pais.
It became “a great source of misinformation” and “in terms of communication, it has confused the debate”, he noted.
The situation is further complicated when the national Institute of statistics and a public research institution announced in late may that the country had recorded since mid-march, an excess of 43 000 deaths compared to the average of the last ten years.
Immediately, the opposition accused the government of having minimized the balance sheet.
The latter argues that these figures include people who are not dead Covid-19, or suspected cases of coronavirus which could not be confirmed by PCR testing, rare at the beginning of the epidemic in Spain.
“It is normal that the number of dead (coronavirus) do not correspond to the excess mortality,” said Ildefonso Hernandez, spokesperson for the Spanish Society of public health, who explains that this effect also occurs during epidemics of influenza or heat waves.
“The government cover-up t-he the dead under the rug? The answer is no, according to me. The government does it clearly? No more”, concludes Mr. Llaneras. “One of the fundamental problems is that the management of information and communication of data on the epidemic has not been clear enough”.