The first mortality map by Covid-19 in Spain municipalities

Country/area: Spain

Organisation: elDiario.es

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 04/03/2021

Credit: Raúl Sánchez


Raúl Sánchez:  Spanish data and investigative journalist covering stories of inequality, gender, corruption and (now) Covid at elDiario.es. He coordinates elDiario.es data team.

Project description:

More than 60,000 people died from Covid-19 in 2020 in Spain with a positive test result. An investigation by elDiario.es with individual data of thousands of deaths allows us to know for the first time in Spain the virus impact on mortality in each municipality. The data, which the government insisted on hiding for months, shows which cities were the most affected by the worst mortality crisis of the last century.

Impact reached:

This project revealed for the first time in Spain the figures for deaths with Covid-19 confirmed results in each municipality. Until that date, the Government had only published the death figures broken down by region, which did not allow the identification of the cities where the virus had the greatest impact. The information was obtained after a legal battle lasting several months in which the government refused to provide the information to journalists. elDiario.es sent a complaint to the Transparency Council, the body in charge of ensuring compliance with the law, which agreed with this media and forced the Government to send the requested information. This resolution set a legal precedent in Spain to access public information related to the pandemic since it determined that these data were of public interest.
Measuring the local impact of the epidemic at local level is one of the most accurate ways of pointing out the factors that contributed to the spread of the virus in Spain. For example, this story points out how the virus entered Spain through large cities and later spread to older rural areas.
The story was one of the most read of the year in elDiario.es and also among the ones that brought the most new subscribers to the newspaper, according to our statistics.

Techniques/technologies used:

R, Rstudio and Excel for data compiling and data analysis. Datawrapper, Javascript and Mapbox for data visualization.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most complicated part of the project was the legal battle with the Government to obtain and reveal the local Covid-19 mortality data. The first request under the Transparency law was sent by elDiario.es six months before the publication of the project. The Government refusal to send the information ended with a Transparency Council resolution that agreed with the journalists and forced the Government to reveal the details of each of those who died from Covid-19. It set a legal precedent at the time to request public information on the pandemic.
The data, in addition, revealed for the first time which were the cities where the Covid-19 had the greatest impact in the first year of the pandemic and also how the virus entered Spain through the large cities with the most mobility, the most affected in the first wave of the pandemic, and spread to the oldest and most vulnerable rural municipalities after summer, second and third waves of the pandemic.

What can others learn from this project?

During the pandemic, unlike other countries, data journalists in Spain had to deal with the lack of much data that was being published in the rest of the world. This project opens a way in Spain (and also in other countries) to request information in the hands of the Government that has not been published related to Covid-19.

Project links: