Among the major economies and the most populated countries in Europe, since last June, Spain is the only one that does not record nationwide data on infections and deaths from coronavirus during the weekend. One more situation that, according to experts, demonstrates the difficulties in being able to analyze the real impact of the pandemic in our country and take effective measures to curb the incidence of covid-19.
All the nations in our environment collect the contagion figures daily and transfer them to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC, for its acronym in English), except Spain, which registers zero infections and deaths on Saturdays and Sundays since last June.
“If the distribution of cases by days is studied, it is observed that, unlike other European countries, lThe cases are not distributed equally between the days of the week. This means that the data for Spain experience, in addition to the natural fluctuations in the statistical data, notable fluctuations associated with how we report the data: on Mondays, triple the number of a normal day, and on Saturdays and Sundays zero cases, “he explains to Vozpópuli Guillermo Navas, physicist who analyzes the data of the covid in our country on his blog.
If we compare the data recorded in the ECDC for Spain and the United Kingdom (see following graph), we can see how In the case of the British country, the infections appear almost uniformly distributed during the seven days of the week (14-15% of infections are attributed to each of them), while those in Spain register a notable peak on Mondays (up to 40%, while on Saturdays and Sundays there are none registered).
“The fact that the data is not published on the weekend distorts the daily photograph of the pandemic and this, in addition to making it difficult to analyze the measures that should be applied in the future to stop contagions, complicates, for example, knowing up to at what point in the field of leisure during Saturdays and Sundays the outbreaks have occurred “, he tells this newspaper Clara Prats, Researcher at the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.
Prats is part of a group of five Spanish scientists and researchers who last week sent a letter to the prestigious medical journal The Lancet to complain that “In Spain, the data currently published at the national and regional level are insufficient to understand the dynamics of covid-19 and to act“.
Data disaggregated by age and sex
“Since May, data disaggregated by age groups and sex have ceased to be offered. This was very important because it would allow us to better understand where and in which population sectors the pandemic is increasing, and thus be able to make forecasts and plans with concrete measures in the short term to be able to stop the spread of the virus “, indicates Sergi Trías-Llimós, post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies of Catalonia, another of the signatories of the letter published by The Lancet.
Since May, data disaggregated by age groups and sex have been discontinued, “says one of the Spanish scientists who signed the letter published in ‘The Lancet’
“It is not the same that the majority of young people are infected, as was happening until a few weeks ago, that the infections begin to rebound among the most vulnerable and older population, as it seems to be happening now,” adds Trías-Llimós.
Countries as diverse as the Netherlands, Germany, the Philippines or Mexico “have published comprehensive and consistent daily updates in the open,” the experts emphasize.
In contrast, experts note, countries as diverse as the Netherlands, Germany, the Philippines and Mexico “have published comprehensive and consistent daily updates in the open of the number of cases and deaths disaggregated by demographic characteristics and in files easily readable for data programs, while In Spain, they continue to be published, in many cases, in PDF and other formats that make it difficult to incorporate the figures into databases for further analysis.
The ‘weekend’ blackout is noticeable in Europe
For his part, Guillermo Navas highlights that the ‘blackout’ of coronavirus data in Spain on Saturdays and Sundays it is noticeable even when looking at the figures at the European level.
If the data from the rest of the countries of Europe Without counting Spain, disaggregated during the seven days of the week, it can be seen how the distribution is practically in parallel with the United Kingdom data. However, if those from Spain are incorporated, the heptagon is out of square with respect to the uniformity of the figures provided by the British authorities.
“Archeology of data”
The irregular treatment of data in Spain has also caused imbalances in the continental charts of the ECDC, due to the multiple corrections made by our country throughout the pandemic.
For example, On May 23, Spain sent the European body a correction of -1918 deaths and just a few weeks later, on June 16, a correction was sent again that added another 1,179 deaths to the total number of victims in a single day for coronavirus in Spain.
This, together with the provisional nature of the data offered daily by the Ministry of Health and the Autonomous Communities (they take an average of twelve days to consolidate and correct themselves), also complicates the analysis of the figures and the possibility that scientists can propose concrete measures in the short term to stop the contagions.
Taking so long to correct the data means that you are not doing a surveillance of the epidemic data but an archeology of the figures. It’s like driving blind and braking when you’re already on the precipice, “criticizes researcher Guillermo Navas
“Taking so long to correct the data means that you are not doing a surveillance of the epidemic data but an archeology of the figures. It’s like driving blind and braking when you’re already on the cliff. A threshold of 500 was set when Madrid already had an accumulated incidence of 800 “, indicates Guillermo Navas.
“Spain is, of the European countries, the one that reports the data with the greatest fluctuations. Although the fluctuations can be smoothed out by means of moving averages, or accumulated data, it greatly disturbs the calculation of daily growth rates, sometimes the latter provides more information of which the number of new cases gives us, “he adds.
Homogenize covid data in the autonomous communities
Another problem pointed out by experts is the uneven way in which the autonomous communities are collecting and communicating coronavirus data. One of the most notable cases is that of the Madrid’s community, which also does not report infections and deaths from coronavirus that occur on Saturdays and Sundays, and that has set off alarms among scientists due to the notable decrease in PCR tests carried out in recent weeks.
Another problem pointed out by the experts is the uneven way in which the autonomous communities are collecting and communicating the coronavirus data
“The decrease in cumulative incidence in Madrid it’s been real for three weeks, but it should also be noted that it is occurring because fewer PCR tests are being performed and because many more antigen tests are being used, which have a much lower positivity“indicates Guillermo Navas.” The combined effect of both factors is that the number of positives per 100,000 inhabitants decreases without us being sure that the real incidence of new cases is decreasing “, he adds.
Experts attribute the improvement in the incidence of the coronavirus in Madrid also to the decrease in the number of CRPs, coupled with the increase in antigen tests, “which have a much lower positivity”
“It is necessary to homogenize the data of the autonomous communities. The more we tend towards this homogenization, the easier it will be to be able to use the data for the analysis and the elaboration of epidemiological plans”, Apostille Clara Prats.