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Spain’s attempts to provide a more comprehensive overview of the coronavirus across the country’s 17 autonomous regions appear to be running into problems.

Last night, the government ordered all the regions to change their criteria for reporting deaths, infections and recoveries. It said that all deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 needed to be recorded, whether they occurred in hospitals, homes or care homes.

On Friday, health ministry figures put the total number of cases in Spain at 188,068 – up 5,252 from the previous day. That suggests an overnight increase in new cases of 2.9%, which is well in line with recent daily increases – and markedly down from the 38% daily rise seen when the state of emergency was declared in Spain just over a month ago.

The same set of figures show an overnight death toll of 348 – well down on recent days. But speaking at his daily press conference, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies put the overnight death toll at 585.

The new recording and reporting criteria also seem to have skewed the number of cured people. On Thursday, the health ministry said that 74,797 people across Spain had recovered. Twenty-four hours later, the total had dropped to 72,963.

“We’ve had a problem with one autonomous region that was using two sources of information, and we’ve come across some information that lacks the consistency we try to ensure when we offer figures,” Fernando Simón told reporters.

Simón said the new data meant that past statistics needed to be revised and warned that it would be hard to gauge the coronavirus’s true impact “until the epidemic is over”.

Official figures from the health ministry are based only on deaths of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. But a lot of people are likely to have died from the virus without having been tested, meaning their deaths do not figure in the official count.

This is particularly the case in care homes, where thousands of people have died untested, but showing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. According to figures analysed by El País, at least 11,600 people have died of the virus – or displaying symptoms associated with it – in Spanish care homes.

Those deaths would account for almost two-thirds of the nationwide fatalities.

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