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Some insights from COVID-19 figures in Spain

By Esperanza Regueras, CEO of Axis Pharma

The sensation of unclarity around the COVID-19 data is highly extended among general population. Reporters and the media are giving some of it, but often with poor or none analysis.

The health ministry is publishing data every afternoon (except during weekends), like today’s ones, exposed in the following table:

Although there are many discrepancies between the data published in this table and the data offered by each regional government, we are going to focus our today’s attention to the insights we could extract from the above information.

3 Key types of data is presented here:

  • Previous day’s diagnosis

  • Cases diagnosed in previous 14 days and in previous 7 days

  • Cases diagnosed with symptoms started in last 14 days and in last 7 days.

Public opinion is considering Madrid region as the most problematic in the current wave of the disease in Spain. I do not agree and I intend to demonstrate why.

Considering the new cases diagnosed in last 14 days Madrid has, by far, the highest figure with 34,668 new cases followed by Cataluña (14,306 cases) and Andalucía (10,422 cases). This figure represents the number of infected patients that have been identified in such period of time in each region but, the number of people diagnosed is directly proportional to the number of tests performed, so what is the reality? Is Madrid having many more infected people or is testing much more abundant than in the other regions? Or both things are true at same time?

Looking to the number of people with symptoms started in last 14 days we could answer this question. In Madrid 4,701 people has been diagnosed with symptoms started in last 14 days, meaning that the other 29,967 people (34,668 minus 4,701) had no symptoms therefore in Madrid only the 8% of total diagnosis in last 14 days were associated with symptomatology (92% of diagnosed patients were asymptomatic) meaning that the level of tests in this region is very high.

How are the other regions performing? As you can see in the figure, the 33% of diagnosed in Cataluña and the 38% of diagnosed in Castilla La Mancha had symptoms meaning that the level of tests is lower than in Madrid as only the 67% and 62% of test were in asymptomatic patients.

The president of Castilla La Mancha (CLM) has recently called Madrid a “radioactive viral bomb” but considering today’s analysis we could perfectly say it’s not true and even more, CLM situation is worse.

“Test, test, test” is the best strategy to stop the virus. It’s the crucial tool to identify and separate the infected people, reducing the virus transmission. A key performance indicator of this strategy will be the number of people diagnosed: the higher the better. Therefore, considering the above figures, it seems that Madrid, where a lot of people are diagnosed but few of them have symptoms, is performing much better than those regions that point the finger. Data tells the true story, if you know what to look at!

To evaluate correctly the epidemic evolution is important not to look at the number of cases but the number of hospitalized patients ant its evolution. The number of cases is an estimation and depends highly on the level of testing, on the other hand, the number of hospitalizations are real and concrete. Following 4 graphs shows the real situation in Madrid in the second wave (August to October): decreasing in total hospitalizations, decreasing in ICU hospitalization, decreasing growth in hospitalizations and ICU.


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