Different spatial behaviours
IGN (2021): The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020
Monographs from the National Atlas of Spain. New content
The impact of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic on health in Spain was uneven from a spatial point of view. Accordingly, whilst the province was the territorial unit of analysis and mapping in preceding chapters, this excerpt looks through a more detailed lens at regions, metropolitan areas, municipalities, boroughs, neighbourhoods and census sections.
The first image to emerge is the decisive importance of human factors on the incidence of the pandemic in urban areas. Mobility, income, unemployment, percentage of the population living below the poverty line, type of housing and spatial distribution of nursing homes are just some of the factors that shall be taken into account when assessing the impact on health. This chapter goes one step further by considering synthetic indices that highlight risk, hazard and vulnerability in even smaller spatial units, such as census sections.
The key map shows the five areas used to assess the impact of the pandemic on health in urban areas, i.e. Galicia, the cities of Saragossa (Zaragoza) and Málaga, Barcelona and its metropolitan area, and the city of Madrid together with the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid). Maps for the cities of Saragossa (Zaragoza) and Málaga are limited to the municipal boundaries. In Galicia, an overview on the whole region is first taken whilst the text delves afterwards into the specific towns of Corunna (A Coruña), Ourense, Santiago de Compostela and Vigo. Both a metropolitan and a municipal perspective is taken for Barcelona.
A two-pronged approach is also used for Madrid, looking at both the boroughs in the city and a more general framework: the Region of Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid). In addition, a synthetic index for social vulnerability was developed for the cities of Barcelona and Madrid, using the census section as the spatial unit of analysis.
1. The spatial distribution of the population influenced the incidence of the pandemic. Scattered population and reduced physical contact worked to contain the spread of the virus.
2. Poverty and social vulnerability caused more infections and resulted in more deaths.
3. One of the factors that influenced the impact of the pandemic was the lower capacity to reduce mobility amongst social groups that use public transport. This links to the type of work undertaken by these people as well as their more fragile financial position.
4. Population density had a direct relation to the amount of people infected in urban areas. However, a multi-factor model is required to provide a full explanation.
5. A survey on the emotional well-being of the population in big cities during lockdown concluded that the number of positive responses to the experience was rather high in certain urban areas with severe social vulnerability, what points out the high levels of resilience in these areas.
6. Gender was also found to be a differentiating factor. Data show that more women tested positive for the disease. However, more men were admitted to hospitals and to Intensive Care Units and died. This suggests that the symptoms and effects of the disease were more severe on men.
Co-authorship of the text in Spanish: José Sancho Comíns. See the list of members engaged
Adaptation of the text and translation into English for this international version: Andrés Arístegui Cortijo (Translator in chief)
You can download the complete publication The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain. First wave: from the first cases to the end of June 2020 in Libros Digitales del ANE site.