During the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, Spain was one of the most heavily affected countries in Europe. Spain struggled to control the surge of new cases during the first wave, resulting in high fatalities from cases. The country was then placed under one of the harshest lockdowns in Europe in an attempt to flatten the curve. Similar to other countries in Europe, Spain’s Covid-19 daily confirmed cases started to decline in May and the country seemed to have regained control of the situation. However, the daily confirmed cases have started increasing again, raising concerns that Spain will experience a second wave of Covid-19.
Based on the current trajectory of Covid-19 daily confirmed cases, Spain will soon overtake the UK to become the most heavily affected country in Western Europe, reaching 350,000 total confirmed cases in the next two weeks. GlobalData does not believe that the country will soon have a significant decrease in new cases due to the fact that the country reopened the economy when the infections were not fully under control. Spain managed to control the rise of infections with strict lockdown measures during the first wave, and GlobalData expects that it can prevent a disastrous second wave if continued strict social distancing measures are complemented by effective testing and contact tracing.
Based on historical data for new cases of Covid-19, Spain appears to be experiencing a new spike in the number of daily new cases. This spike, which began in July, seems to have coincided with the summer holiday and tourist season. On average, 1,700 daily new cases were reported in July, which is five times higher than in June. The country’s outlook remains uncertain due to the recent surge in new cases as shown in Figure 1 below. However, the surge is still lower than the country’s peak cases in March when approximately 8,000 new daily cases were reported. Spain was conducting an average of 10,000 tests a day in March and April, which increased to more than 40,000 tests a day in the last week of July. The increased testing is one of the possible explanations for the recent higher number of daily confirmed cases. However, Covid-19 is extremely contagious, and the number of cases and deaths could rapidly spiral out of control if the country fails in its effort to control the spread of the virus.
As Spain has started to reopen its economy amid the rapidly rising cases, there is a major risk that Covid-19 cases will not decline in the near future. Due to its fragile, tourism-dependent economy and the negative economic ramifications of a complete lockdown, the country determined that a prolonged lockdown was no longer viable. Other European countries such as France, Germany and the UK have recently seen a similar uptick in daily new cases that coincides with the reopening of their economies. To avoid a resurgence in cases, the timing of when to lift the lockdown must be right with an effective test and trace system in place to control localised outbreaks.
If the timing is wrong, Covid-19 cases could very easily rise exponentially, which could overwhelm the country’s healthcare system. The US is a prime example of poor planning as it reopened the economy despite the lack of pandemic control, leading to a huge rise in Covid-19 cases, especially in the southern states. To avoid a similar scenario, Spain should remain vigilant, develop an effective testing and contact-tracing policy and be prepared to shut down regions where outbreak hotspots occur.
Figure 1: Covid-19 Daily New Cases, Spain, March 1–August 4
Source: GlobalData, Pharma intelligence Center