Uncertainty as Spain puts coronavirus death toll ‘on hold’

MADRID (AFP) – For days now, Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll has been on hold, generating widespread uncertainty about the real state of the epidemic that has claimed more than 27,000 lives.

The Health Ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon, who for months has given a daily briefing on the pandemic’s evolution, acknowledged the “astonishment” and “confusion” generated by the figures.

On May 25, the ministry changed its method of collecting data on confirmed cases and fatalities, initially giving a daily death toll of between 50 and 100. But the figure then fell to fewer than five per day and on some days there were no deaths at all.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez even told parliament there had been “no deaths” for several days, prompting a backlash from the right and the far-right who have since accused him of hiding the real number of fatalities.

“(The) biggest danger is communicating this idea that the epidemic is over because the virus is still present in our country although at much lower levels,” warned Salvador Macip, an expert in health sciences at Catalonia’s Open University.

Simon has said the new system was set up to facilitate the rapid detection and isolation of any new outbreak and that the regions must provide a detailed breakdown of cases, rather than lumping all figures together.