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Deaths in Spain in 2020 spiked to highest level since 1941

Deaths in Spain in 2020 increased by 17.7 percent compared to 2019 figures, the Spanish government reported on Thursday, the biggest number of annual deaths since records began in 1941.

Deaths in Spain in 2020 spiked to highest level since 1941
Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

The number of deaths in all of Spain totalled 492,930 in 2020, which was an increase of 74,227 or 17.7 percent over the previous year. 

The greatest number of deaths were seen in the Madrid region, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain. Deaths in Madrid jumped 41 percent in 2020 over the previous year, official figures showed Thursday.

The region, which is home to around 6.7 million people, recorded a total of 66,683 deaths last year, up from 47,165 in 2019, Spain’s national statistics agency INE said in a statement.

The Madrid region accounts for 14.3 percent of Spain’s population, of around 47 million, but it saw some 20 percent of the country’s total Covid-19 deaths.

It was especially hard hit by the first wave of the pandemic in March when officials used an ice-skating rink in the Spanish capital as a temporary mortuary for Covid-19 victims and set up a field hospital in the city’s conference centre.

Spain, one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, recorded around 50,000 deaths from Covid-19 in 2020, according to health ministry figures.

But the actual number of infections and fatalities is likely significantly higher because only seriously ill patients were tested during the first months of the pandemic because of a limited testing capacity.

Covid-19 has killed more than 80,000 people in Spain since the start of the pandemic, according to the health ministry.

The numbers of deaths and cases have fallen steeply in recent weeks as Spain´s vaccination programme has picked up.

Just over one in four people, 28 percent, in Spain have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Spain’s Covid-19 infection rate drops to its lowest in ten months

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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