Read in Catalan

How many lives has coronavirus really taken in Spain? It's a terribly important question, and the answer is terribly uncertain. Even the head of Spain's health emergency technical team, Fernando Simón, acknowledged that "the actual death toll is very difficult to know." According to the official balance of the Spanish health ministry, which updates its death toll every day, there are now 19,130 people who have died from the virus in Spain. However, this calculation includes only those who are admitted to hospitals and not those who die in senior citizens' residences or their own homes. Since Wednesday night, the Catalan government has also published figures for Covid-19 deaths outside hospitals, but the official Spanish count does not, for the moment, even acknowledge them, let alone include them in its total.

The change in the Catalan health ministry's calculation method, which has been expanded using the data provided by funeral homes, shows that the real figures for Covid-19 deaths are about twice as large as the ones it had provided before. Over seven thousand people have died in Catalonia. The data provided by the Spanish health ministry every morning is compiled from the data transmitted by each of the country's health authorities in its Autonomous Communities the night before. And the Catalan government did also send what it says the ministry asked for: only hospital deaths, that is, 3,855 and not 7,097.

Asked about this, Simón said that he had to discuss the new method with the Catalan health ministry, because he did not know for sure if all cases included "had a previous diagnosis of coronavirus". He also commented that it was difficult to say whether coronavirus was the actual cause of death of a person even if they tested positive. That is, if the person dies from Covid-19 or with the presence of Covid-19.

The official statistics, therefore, do not account for the real number of deaths, which unfortunately do not take place exclusively in hospitals, by any means. In the Community of Madrid, health officials have commented that when they send their data to the ministry, they too have been attaching the number of fatalities in senior citizens' residences, but that the Spanish government has excluded them from the count.

According to the coronavirus technical management committee, when asked what their daily publication really includes, the answer is that "all deaths with a confirmed diagnosis are counted."