The beginning of the school year in Spain has coincided with the worst coronavirus figures of the second wave of the pandemic. According to data released Monday by the Spanish Health Ministry, the total number of Covid-19 cases has risen to 525,000, meaning that infections spiked again last week, with nearly 9,000 new daily cases.

The 14-day cumulative incidence of the virus, which is the parameter most commonly used to compare the epidemiological situation in each country, has risen at the same speed and is now at 230 cases per 100,000 people. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Spain has the highest incidence in Western Europe and almost double that of France, which is second on the list.

“We have a situation that is very similar to what we have been observing in previous weeks,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, at a government press conference on Monday.

Simón argued that the spike in cases is partly due to the fact that more infections are being tracked and detected. “PCR tests are being done where there is the greatest possibility of transmission,” he explained. The health official did, however, recognize that the positivity rate – the percentage of tests that come back positive – “is higher than we would like.” According to the Health Ministry, this rate has reached 11% in Spain.

“The trend is rising on a national level, but with significant differences between the regions,” said Simón. A few weeks ago, Aragón and Catalonia had among the worst coronavirus figures in the country, but now these regions have some of the best numbers in data points such as hospital admissions. But in other regions, such as Murcia, Andalusia, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands, the incidence of the virus has continued to rise, even though these areas started from a better epidemiological situation.

Joan Ramon Villalbí, from the Spanish Association of Public Health and Health Administration (SESPAS), highlights other differences between Spain’s 17 regions. “If we compare the number of positive cases with the number of hospitalizations, we see that the number of admissions is especially low in the Basque Country, and in contrast, especially high in regions like Galicia, Castilla y León and Murcia. This appears to indicate that the former is managing to detect almost all cases, even asymptomatic ones, while in the others the chains of contagion are escaping them,” the expert explains.

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