Healthcare Economy

Spain Faces a New Specter of Its 28,000 COVID-19 Deaths

Most large cities in Spain recently emerged from a months-long lockdown as the rise in the numbers of confirmed cases and coronavirus deaths has dropped sharply from when hundreds of people died of the disease each day. Now, new cases have started to surge again. The situation is bad enough that the United Kingdom has begun to insist that all travelers from Spain quarantine for 14 days. Other European nations are setting similar restrictions. Spain is one of the first European nations that has to consider a second, partial shuttering of its economy, due to the fear it has been hit by a new wave of the COVID-19 cases.

Spain has reason to be worried. It was ravaged by the disease from mid-March to late April. However, the rise in daily deaths recently dropped to single digits.

Spain was among the first nations where the disease reached catastrophic levels. Two others that followed similar patterns early were Italy and the United Kingdom. They are much larger than Spain by population, so the spread in Spain made it relatively harder hit than these others.

Spain has posted 28,432 COVID-19 deaths from 272,421 cases. Its total population is 46,736,776. Italy, with a population of 60,550,075, saw 246,118 confirmed cases and 35,107 fatal ones. In the United Kingdom, there were 299,426 cases and 45,752 fatalities. Its population is 67,530,172, almost 50% higher than Spain’s.

What has happened? The Spanish government reported 900 new cases on Friday. The increase has been blamed on people, largely young people, who congregate in small places. The pattern matches what has happened in America’s most recently devastated states. Florida, Texas and California had large numbers of people who would not wear masks and social distance. These states are in what scientists call their first waves. Presumably, if they shutter their economies, the rate of new cases and deaths will slow, as they have almost everywhere else in the world under those circumstances.

Spain is altogether a different case from these states. Presumably, the government and population of Spain learned from the first wave of cases and deaths and would know better not to match the circumstances that caused them again. Officials in Spain say that new cases are isolated. A rise in the number of cases to 900 shows that is not entirely true. The first wave in Spain began as isolated incidents as well.

Spain is the classic case of a country where there is a debate about the spread of the disease and the reopening of the economy. The argument for reopening is that a drop in gross domestic product and a rise in unemployment resulted from the first rapid spread of the disease. Without reopening, the economic results will be catastrophic.

However, in what appears to be a new spike in cases, it seems the lessons learned from the first spike have started to fade in some parts of the country. Worldwide, there is a fear of a second wave. The situation in Spain supports that anxiety.