Rising phase of the pandemic

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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.


Thematic structure > The COVID-19 pandemic in Spain > The rising phase of the pandemic

  • Statistical graph: Evolution of COVID-19 cases during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain.
  • Map: COVID-19 cases during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain. PDF. Data. Interactive version.

Before commenting on the rising phase of the pandemic, it is important to note the difference between relative data, whose spatial distribution varied as the weeks progressed, and absolute data, which showed a clear polarisation in Madrid and Barcelona, as these two provinces were the main hotspots in Spain; especially Madrid. This pattern of distribution may be explained to some extent by the greater concentration of the population in these two provinces, as may have also occurred in the Basque Country (Euskadi/País Vasco). However, it was not shown with the same intensity in other areas of the country that also have a high population density, such as the Region of Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana), the Region of Murcia (Región de Murcia) and some provinces in Andalusia (Andalucía).

  • Statistical graph: Evolution of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain.
  • Map: Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain. PDF. Data. Interactive version.

All variables showed an upward trend during the rising phase of the first wave of the pandemic, from 9 to 20 March 2020, despite the state of alarm declared on 14 March 2020, which led to a severe lockdown and relevant restrictions on mobility throughout the country.

Regarding the evolution and distribution of COVID-19 cases during the rising phase of the pandemic the daily case registry doubled in Spain from 9 to 13 March, i.e. from 3,500 to 8,000. Subsequently, the escalation continued and new peaks were reached on 16 March, with almost 10,000 cases, and 20 March, with almost 11,000 cases per day. New COVID-19 cases were registered in all provinces during this period, i.e. 29,000 in Madrid; 13,000 in Barcelona; and nearly 3,000 new cases in Valencia, Biscay (Bizkaia), Navarre (Navarra) and Ciudad Real. The cumulative incidence (cases per 100,000 inhabitants) was highest on the axes from Madrid to Salamanca, Araba/Álava, Ciudad Real and Albacete. This spatial pattern had already been observed from the moment cases began to appear in previous weeks. It is important to note the high cumulative incidence in the provinces of Soria and Segovia with over 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The evolution of Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic showed a continuous rise during this phase, i.e. from 400 admissions on 9 March to 1,900 admissions on 16 March to 3,657 admissions on 20 March. This increase was very rapid in the provinces of Madrid and Barcelona, where there were 2,900 and 400 people admitted to hospital on 14 March, and by 20 March these data had risen up to 10,000 and 3,000. Hospital admission rates (hospital admissions/100,000 inhabitants) showed a similar spatial pattern to that of COVID-19 cases, with high figures in Castile-La Mancha (Castilla-La Mancha), Castile and León (Castilla y León) and the Madrid-Araba/Álava axis. Provinces such as Albacete, Ciudad Real, Araba/Álava, La Rioja and Navarre (Navarra), where the first hospital admissions due to COVID-19 were recorded during the previous weeks, also showed high figures during this rising phase, with over 50 cumulative hospital admissions per 100,000 inhabitants. A large increase was also registered in the province of Soria, where a large amount of elderly population is to be found.

  • Statistical graph: Evolution in the number of admissions to Intensive Care Units due Covid-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain.
  • Map: Admissions to the Intensive Care Units due to Covid-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain. PDF. Data. Interactive version.

The evolution of Admissions to intensive care units due to COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic was exponential during this period regarding ICUs of NHS hospitals. This shows the severity of the situation at this stage. On 9 March, 84 admissions to the ICU were recorded. On 20 March, less than two weeks later, 436 new admissions were reached. The provinces of Madrid and Barcelona recorded 553 and 151 cumulative admissions on 16 March in absolute terms. On 20 March, these data had risen to 1,100 and 400. In absolute terms, Valencia, Alicante, Málaga, Saragossa (Zaragoza), Biscay (Bizkaia) and Navarre (Navarra) also stood out. In relative terms, yet, the Northwest and the Mediterranean coast registered higher figures as around 43% of hospital admissions where in fact referred to the ICU in the province of Almería, and between 30% and 40% where admitted to the ICU in the provinces of Palencia and Castellón. The national average stood by 13.5%. This seems to show a different spatial distribution to that prevailing in the rest of variables (cases, hospital admissions and deaths).

For the data on deaths, the date of death has been used as reference; if not available, however, the date of declaration to the regional authorities or the diagnosis date has been used. The Evolution in the number of deaths from COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic was exponential throughout this period: it increased in Spain from less than 20 cases on 9 March to around 200 cases on 17 March and to more than 400 cases on 20 March. The provinces that recorded deaths from COVID-19 during the first days of this period were Madrid, Barcelona, Gipuzkoa, Araba/Álava, La Rioja, Saragossa (Zaragoza) and Toledo. However, from 14 to 20 March, almost all provinces also began to record deaths. In absolute terms, nearly 970 deaths were recorded in this period in Madrid; 250 in Barcelona; and over 30 in Araba/Álava, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Albacete, Alicante and Málaga. In relative terms, deaths expressed as a rate per 100,000 inhabitants were higher in the provinces of Castile-La Mancha (Castile-La Mancha) and in the Madrid-Segovia-Araba/Álava axis, with rates of between 10 and 18.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national average of 3.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Only five provinces recorded no deaths from COVID-19 during this rising phase, i.e. Palencia, Huesca, Badajoz, Huelva and Almería.

  • Statistical graph: Evolution in the number of deaths from COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain.
  • Map: Deaths from COVID-19 during the rising of the pandemic. 2020. Spain. PDF. Data. Versión interactiva.

For the data on deaths, the date of death has been used as reference; if not available, however, the date of declaration to the regional authorities or the diagnosis date has been used. The Evolution in the number of deaths from COVID-19 during the rising phase of the pandemic was exponential throughout this period: it increased in Spain from less than 20 cases on 9 March to around 200 cases on 17 March and to more than 400 cases on 20 March. The provinces that recorded deaths from COVID-19 during the first days of this period were Madrid, Barcelona, Gipuzkoa, Araba/Álava, La Rioja, Saragossa (Zaragoza) and Toledo. However, from 14 to 20 March, almost all provinces also began to record deaths. In absolute terms, nearly 970 deaths were recorded in this period in Madrid; 250 in Barcelona; and over 30 in Araba/Álava, Toledo, Ciudad Real, Albacete, Alicante and Málaga. In relative terms, deaths expressed as a rate per 100,000 inhabitants were higher in the provinces of Castile-La Mancha (Castile-La Mancha) and in the Madrid-Segovia-Araba/Álava axis, with rates of between 10 and 18.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national average of 3.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Only five provinces recorded no deaths from COVID-19 during this rising phase, i.e. Palencia, Huesca, Badajoz, Huelva and Almería.

  • Statistical graph: Age-sex pyramid of deceased from Covid-19 during the first cases and the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain.
  • Map: Deaths from COVID-19 over 80 years of age during the rising phase of the pandemic. 2020. Spain. PDF. Data. Interactive version.

The Age-sex pyramid of the deceased from COVID-19 during the first cases and the rising phase of the pandemic is very expressive. On the one hand, it shows the sharp contrast between both sexes, as the male population showed higher percentages of deaths than the female population. On the other hand, it reveals the sharp difference by age, with older age groups showing higher mortality rates. The most affected age groups are 75 and over in the case of men, and 80 and over in the case of women. More specifically, the group most impacted was men aged 80-89, which accounted for almost one third of the total amount of deaths. This contrasts with the younger male groups, or even with the same age group but in the female population, which recorded roughly half as many cases as the male population.

As for Deaths from COVID-19 over 80 years of age during the rising phase of the pandemic, provinces with over 80% of deaths in this age group were all those in the Northwest, except for Corunna (A Coruña) and Palencia, which did not record any deaths over 80 years of age (nor did Huesca, Badajoz, Huelva, Murcia and Almería in other parts of the country). These data simply show the demographic structure in Spain, which is ageing in the Northwest. Moreover, it is worth noting the rural nature of many of these provinces in the Northwest. This meant an initial stronger protection for these territories. However, once the pandemic arrived, they were in a situation of greater vulnerability due to the high ageing and masculinity of their age-sex pyramids and to the lower accessibility to high-level hospitals. In absolute terms, over 600 deaths occurred in Madrid and 150 in Barcelona amongst people over 80 years of age during this rising phase of the pandemic.


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Co-authorship of the text in Spanish: María José Amorín Calzada, Carmen Bentué Martínez, Carlos López Escolano, Raúl Postigo Vidal, María Sebastián López and María Zúñiga Antón. See the list of members engaged

Adaptation of the text and translation into English for this international version: Andrés Arístegui Cortijo (Translator in chief)



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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.