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.
Cases in Spain have been roughly doubling week-on-week, while cases in the UK are broadly flat.
This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here.
For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as true
as the figures are correct, though it should be noted that death data doesn’t tell you much about the current risk.