The Covid demoted to the rank of simple flu? How to explain the Spanish strategy

The Covid, a simple flu? For the Spaniards, it is – almost – the case. While the peak of the Omicron wave was crossed in mid-January in the Iberian Peninsula, the government of socialist Pedro Sanchez affirms it: the damage caused by the coronavirus can no longer be considered as the consequence of a pandemic, but rather of an endemic disease among others.

We no longer count the sick

Already, Madrid is preparing to no longer count patients infected with Sars-CoV-2. At the end of January, the exhaustive count of people tested positive, hospitalizations and deaths will no longer be necessary, indeed hinted the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias. And if, by April, a certain number of referring doctors and hospitals will remain on standby on Sars-CoV-2, in view of the next waves, this will however be the end of the mobilization. general, as soon as the incidence of the virus soars.

On January 12, the European Medicines Agency itself predicted “an imminent endemization” of the coronavirus, even if it “still behaves like a pandemic virus”. The term endemization refers to the idea of ​​a virus permanently present in the population, but in an extremely predictable way, with an almost definitive stabilization of the number of individuals infected at the same time and capable of transmitting the disease to other places. ‘others.

Only 1% mortality

Tested locally in the greatest discretion for a few months already, the new Spanish system is ready to be launched simultaneously in the 17 autonomous regions of the country. Spain is the first country in Europe to project itself so quickly into the future, firstly because its health system has been completely overwhelmed by the Omicron wave and it can no longer live sustainably in a state of emergency. , at the risk of repeated relapses of the economy, argues the Prime Minister.

Then, because the Spaniards are now almost all vaccinated: 90.6% of those over the age of 12 have to date received two doses; 51.8% of children aged 5 to 11 received their first injection; 68.9% of those over 40 even received their third dose. And finally, because the death rate from Covid-19 has fallen to around 1%.

Impending lull

This strategic reversal is also explained by a new behavior of the virus on the ground. Over time, variants of the initial strain are certainly more contagious, but also much less dangerous. Unlike previous waves, where the number of contaminations slowed down first, then lowering the number of hospital admissions, then the number of beds mobilized in intensive care units, the opposite is happening this time. in Spain.

The first good news came from intensive care units, where the share of beds occupied by patients with Covid-19 has been falling since January 15 (they are currently around 2,200, or 23% of reception capacity), so that the spread of the virus remained stabilized at a high level, around 3,400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In recent days, the census of positive tests has in turn started to slow down, confirming with a lag of a few days the prospect of an imminent calm.

Premature optimism

If some countries, such as France or Germany, consider Spain’s optimism premature, even hasty, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control agrees with Madrid. “We said as early as October 2021: we encourage all countries in Europe to move from emergency surveillance to more sustainable and goal-oriented surveillance systems. This surveillance should combine the Covid -19 to influenza and other respiratory pathogens, provided that current surveillance systems are strengthened,” said one of its spokespersons on Monday January 24.

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Without further ado, the restrictive measures begin to be removed one after the other. Last Friday, Catalonia lifted the night curfew introduced before the end of the year celebrations. In the north, Cantabria has just ended the obligation to present the sanitary pass at the restaurant. In the Madrid region, it is planned to reduce the isolation period for Covid-19 patients to seven days, and even to four days if they are asymptomatic.


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