Official Covid-19 death toll in Spain passes 80,000

Workers at a funeral home in Vitoria.
Workers at a funeral home in Vitoria. / RAFA GUTIERREZ
  • It becomes the eleventh country to reach that number, while some other organisations estimate the figure in the region of 100,000

On 13 February, 2020, a 69-year-old man who had just returned from Nepal died at the Arnau de Vilanova hospital in Valencia due to a 'strange' pneumonia. At that time the disease, that had been christened two days before as Covid-19, seemed geographically limited to China but things soon changed as the virus spread quickly around the world.

Almost seventeen months later, on 2 June, 2021, Spain has exceeded 80,000 deaths from Covid (some 80,049, with the 66 notified this Wednesday, 2 June), according to official data from the Ministry of Health.

It has become the eleventh country in the world to reach this death toll. The United States of America, with 595,213 deaths heads the table, followed by Brazil (495,199), India (335,102), Mexico (227,840), United Kingdom (128,045), Italy (126,221), Russia (119,830), Colombia (89,297), Germany (88,781) and Iran (80,327), according to the Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore (USA), which also collects the number of deaths in each country per 100,000 inhabitants.

On that list, Spain is in 22nd place, with a rate of 169.84. Hungary is the country with the most deaths in relation to its population (304.33 per 100,000 inhabitants), followed by the Czech Republic (282.18), Bosnia (280.31), San Marino (265.80), North Macedonia (259.81) and Montenegro (254.61).

Other countries with a higher proportion of deaths than Spain are Brazil (219.28), Belgium (217.30, although it is the only government that includes deaths with a positive test and also suspected cases), Peru (213.29), Italy (209.18), United Kingdom (191.59), United States (181.14), Colombia (176.35), Mexico (175.24) and Argentina (173.78).

During the first onslaught of the virus, from March to early July, which included the home lockdown, the Ministry of Health officially registered 28,363 deaths. In the following five months, during the second wave, the number of deaths was lower, at 18,981. The harsh third wave, saw a huge rebound in the cumulative incidence rate and number of people in hospital after the relaxation of restrictions at Christmas, left 25,449 deaths in just three months. Finally, the fourth wave, which health expert Fernando Simón has described on several occasions as 'little wave', has left more than 7,000 dead in two and a half months.

Probably the only positive aspect of the data appears to be when looking at the time it took Spain to go from 70,000 to 80,000 deaths: taking some three months, from 3 March to 2 June, the longest period of time since the 20,000-30,000 range (18 April 18 to 15 September, nearly five months).

Spain reached 10,000 deaths from Covid-19 in less than two months (13 February to 3 April); from 10,000 to 20,000, in 15 days (from 3 to 18 April); from 30,000 to 40,000, in less than two months (from 15 September to 11 November); from 40,000 to 50,000, in a month and a half (from 11 November to 28 December); from 50,000 to 60,000, in little more than a month (from 28 December to 3 February); and from 60,000 to 70,000, in just one month (from 3 February to 3 March).

From the start, controversy has accompanied the death statistics from the Ministry of Health because they only include victims who were tested positive, something that, mainly during the first wave, did not happen in all cases due to the lack of tests in the country, so the official numbers have been questioned by public organisations, universities and even international institutions.

Spain’s National Institute of Statistics (INE) compares weekly deaths since the beginning of the pandemic with historical data on deaths since 2000. According to this data, excess mortality in Spain since March of last year until mid-May of this year it stands at 96,658 people.

Meanwhile, a study by the University of Washington indicates that the number of deaths in Spain from Covid-19 (and not from other causes) stands at 124,449.