The official number of deaths because of coronavirus in Malaga province was 287 on Thursday this week. Despite this, it is clear both locally and nationally that the death rate linked to the pandemic is higher than what the Ministry of Heath figures say it is.
The government's National Statistics Institute (INE) has launched a trial of a new statistical tool that could help clarify the true extent of the tragedy based on weekly data received from death registrars. This has then been combined with previous years' data of the cause of death with the aim of "estimating deaths due to the Covid-19 outbreak", according to the INE.
At a national level, the INE data has shown a year-on-year increase of 43,945 deaths comparing the first 21 weeks of 2019 with those in 2020. In percentage terms, the increase is 24,1%. The data measures up to 24 May and, up to that date, the government had said 28,752 deaths were because of coronavirus. This means that there is a large and unexplained increase of 15,193 deaths nationally which is most likely linked to Covid-19. This is especially true as the number of recent deaths due to things like car accidents and workplace injuries have actually fallen.
When analysed locally, in Malaga province there has been a clear rise in the mortality rate compared to last year. However it is not as great as the national picture and well below the provinces hardest hit by the virus, such as Madrid, Guadalajara or Segovia, which are at almost double the normal number of deaths.
According to INE information, in the first 21 weeks of this year, 6,158 deaths were certified in Malaga province. This was 630 more than the 5,528 recorded in the same period in 2019.
The number of deaths officially down to coronavirus are so far 287, which suggests that the virus has been doubly lethal locally than officially recorded.
This increase in year-on-year mortality in proportional terms is 11.4%, which makes Malaga the Andalusian province with the second biggest year-on-year increase, just behind Granada province on 13.84%.
In the rest of the Andalusian provinces, coronavirus has hit less hard, and there are much smaller increases: Cadiz has a 6.24% increase, Huelva 2.27%, Seville 1.8% and Almeria 0.46%. There are even regional provinces with less deaths than last year: deaths in Cordoba have fallen 16.9% and in Jaén, 2.4%.
The increase during the pandemic in Malaga is a long way off the worst-hit Spanish provinces: Madrid and Guadalajara have close to a 73% excess mortality each and Segovia almost double the normal amount.
2020 figures similar to 2018
There is one further interesting local conclusion reached by the INE analysis of deaths up to 24 May. The mortality in Malaga province, while up this year during coronavirus, is virtually the same as 2018 (6,158 versus 6,150). The INE data shows that in 2018 there was an increase in most categories of death including a particularly large outbreak of flu. The worst week for deaths in the first part of 2018 in Malaga province was actually higher than the worst week in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis.