BARCELONA | Spain, the third country with the most dead of the COVID-19, the virus has spread quickly without being detected, especially among the elderly, according to the experts interviewed by AFP who explain the magnitude of the balance sheet, in particular by the mode of life and the close contact between the generations.
Mean mortality, high contagion
If Spain account for more deaths per capita than any other country with the exception of Belgium, the death rate among confirmed cases is 10.4 %, lower than in Italy, France or the United Kingdom.
“The problem here is the dimension of the epidemic, the large number of people infected when it has reached its peak,” says Fernando Rodriguez, a professor of public Health at the autonomous University of Madrid.
Spain is second only to the United States in the number of cases diagnosed, a statistic which, however, depends on the quantity of tests performed. A mathematical study of the polytechnic University of Catalonia is estimated that there are over 2 million cases, compared to the approximately 220 000 detected.
Before the start of the confinement on the 14th of march, “the virus has been widely circulated under the radar,” notes Antoni Trilla, epidemiologist of the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
“During the last weeks of February and the first week of march there was a wonderful time and the people were in the street, very close to each other,” recalls Fernando Rodriguez. “This helped to accelerate very strong and in very little time the contagion “.
Way of life
The mode of life of a population who spends a lot of time in the street, for a drink, partying, follow a procession, or protest, may have played an important role.
In Spain, as in Italy, ” people kiss and touch each other easily, here we kiss each other non-stop, even at work “, note Ildefonso Hernandez, professor of public Health at the University Miguel Hernandez of Alicante (south-east).
Fernando Rodríguez also holds the type of housing in Spain, the European country with the most inhabitants living in apartments, according to Eurostat. “Our cities are built vertically, with a high density of population.”
Older people are well integrated
“The virus is widely spread and it very quickly reaches the very elderly” , according to Ildefonso Hernandez.
Spain has a high proportion of elderly, lower still in other countries, there is more to be spared, like Germany. “But in the north of Europe, they live more reclusive and the family links are weaker,” he continued.
Here, where it is common to see three generations to do the Sunday walk, ” the family is much more tight, and the contacts between young and elderly people much more closely “.
In addition, they often coexist: on average, the Spaniards leave the parental home at 29 and a half years, compared to 18 and a half years in Sweden and 21 in Denmark, according to Eurostat.
Mr. Hernandez also notes that the families make frequent visits to parents in retirement homes.
“The population of these residences is very old, very fragile. These are not health facilities, and they are not prepared for it. This has caused a fire of the proportion colossal, ” says Dr. Trilla.
The ministry of Health has not released overall figures for deaths in retirement homes. But nothing that the two worst-hit regions, Madrid and Catalonia there are about 8000 deaths among confirmed or suspected cases.
A health system under pressure
The Spanish healthcare system one of the ten best in the world, according to the world Health Organization (WHO), has suffered deep cuts during the financial crisis.
It is based on a strong network of health centres, but the hospitals have a capacity of beds well below the european average, which has necessitated the deployment of field hospitals.
In Spain, it was considered “the results of the system as very good and we spent relatively little public money,” explains Guillem Lopez Casasnovas, an economist from the University Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, former WHO consultant.
But ” it has not overcome the test of resistance “, similar to the banks with little capital: “When you live day-to-day, you draw the most out of what you have, but you don’t have the muscle to withstand a voltage as strong as today.”