You were more likely to catch Covid-19 in Spain than the UK in late July.

10th Aug 2020

Claim

From 21 July to 25 July, 12 people died from Covid-19 in Spain.

Conclusion

Broadly correct. Around 10 people in Spain died after testing positive with Covid-19, so this figure will miss out some Covid-19 deaths.Correct.

 

From 21 July to 25 July the UK reported 426 Covid-19 deaths.

 

Correct. This figure is the number of deaths registered after a positive test, so will miss out some Covid-19 deaths.

 

It’s wrong to suggest Spain is in worse shape than the UK as the UK has a much higher Covid-19 death toll.

 

Looking at the number of cases is more relevant and Spain had many more new cases than the UK at the end of July.

Claim 1 of 3

A viral Facebook post compares the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK with the number in Spain, saying it is wrong to suggest that Spain is “in worse shape than the UK.”

This follows the decision by the government in July to remove Spain from a list of countries which UK travellers can return from and not have to quarantine. Additionally the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises British nationals against all but essential travel to Spain.

The post, which dates from 26 July, claims that there were 426 Covid-19 related deaths in the previous five days in the UK, while there were only 12 from Spain.

The figures are correct, but when comparing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in each country, it’s better to look at the number of new cases. Spain had around 2.6 times more cases than the UK in the week of 20 July, despite having a smaller population.

The figures in the post are correct

The statistic of 426 for the UK is accurate, but it’s worth putting in context. The UK registered 426 deaths between 21 July and 25 July of people who died after testing positive for Covid-19. 

Because these statistics are based on when deaths are registered rather than when they happen, some of those 426 people will have died prior to 21 July.

Also, these only capture deaths where Covid-19 has been determined by a positive test result. This means the deaths of people from Covid-19 who weren’t tested aren’t included in this figure. Data on how many suspected Covid-19 deaths there have been, whether or not confirmed by a test, is published here, but does not yet have data for the full period in question. 

Between 21 and 25 July, Our World in Data, a data publication managed out of the University of Oxford, says there were 10 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in Spain, rather than 12 as the post says.

Nacho Calle, a fact checker at the Spanish fact checking organisation Maldita told Full Fact that, as with the UK data “those data are just about people who died with a previous PCR test positive, that means, those deceased who are known to have been infected.” 

This means deaths of suspected but not test-confirmed Covid-19 are not included. 

Just comparing the number of deaths doesn’t give us the full picture 

The number of deaths isn't the most useful figure to look at to understand how risky Spain is compared to the UK right now. 

That’s because deaths now could have been caused by infections that happened a long time ago. To look at the current risk, it’s better to look at how many more cases there are in each country.

Data on the number of cases isn’t particularly comparable because it depends on how much testing each country is doing. 

Nevertheless, we can see that Spain reported around 12,000 new cases in the week of 20 July, while the UK reported around 4,600, despite having a much larger population. 

Cases in Spain have been roughly doubling week-on-week, while cases in the UK are broadly flat.