“The recession could harm health even more than the epidemic”

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For years it has been the scientific counterpoint to the voices that alerted to apocalyptic epidemics that never came. However, for the first time in his long professional career, Antoni Trilla, head of Epidemiology at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, ​​acknowledges that a virus, SARS-CoV2, has misplaced him. “The evolution of the epidemic has surprised me due to the great speed at which it has spread. It has pushed us all to the limit very quickly. We were not prepared, “says Trilla in statements to this newspaper. Since the Clinic trench, Trilla has seen the epidemic spread like an oil slick. After the Igualada outbreak and the progressive increase in cases, the experts’ predictions were ruined. “The predictions are subject to many variations that are difficult to control,” says this epidemiologist, whom the Government has called to be one of the 16 scientists who are members of the Spanish emergency committee, designated to deal with this unknown virus.

– When they called you to be part of this advisory council?

-I was contacted by the director of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, and he proposed to join this scientific advisory council. I said yes, that I was delighted.

-What is the role of this new body?

-To contribute our reflections to the scientific debate to support the action that is being carried out against the crisis. The Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies has the figures and we have an opinion on them.

-When will the epidemic peak arrive?

-We are on the upward curve. When the epidemic tip will arrive is difficult to predict. The mathematical models that draw the evolution make forecasts that are subject to many variations that are difficult to control, such as the appearance of outbreaks such as the Igualada outbreak that trigger cases or non-compliance with containment measures.

-The epidemic curve begins to face the rise and most of the hospitals are overwhelmed and without material to assist the most vulnerable. The worst part of the epidemic will not be the lethality of the virus but the lack of resources to cope with it, don’t you think?

-If the peak of the epidemic comes abruptly and the rise is rapid, that will undoubtedly be worse for our health system, because hospitals will have to assume a high volume of patients at once. If the number of cases increases progressively, the number of affected will be the same but the health system will suffer less.

-One of the reports that the Generalitat manages contemplates that the confinement lasts until June, the peak is at the end of April and there are 13,000 deaths in this community …

-I don’t know the details of the study. I know that it is the most pessimistic scenario that the Generalitat contemplates and I think it is good that it contemplates it.

-How do experts expect the epidemic to evolve?

-It is difficult to make predictions. If the next few days improve the weather we can think that this will play in our favor and if the containment measures are met it will also help us. Moving forward now is difficult. What is certain is that Catalonia is between 5 and 7 days behind Madrid. When we see that the peak reaches Madrid we will know when it will reach Catalonia.

-Is total containment the only measure to control the epidemic?

-I always say that it is a very complicated balancing game. In my opinion, containment measures should be selective surgery. We must try to make the country work because later we have to activate ourselves. The economic consequences of the measures taken must be taken into account. The post-coronavirus recession could harm health as much or even more than the epidemic.

-Why are we in this situation?

We do not have a society prepared for epidemics because we simply do not have epidemics.

-There are those who point out that our Mediterranean character plays against us …

-I only know that there are studies that show that the Orientals have an average of four daily physical contacts and we double and triple that number. That influences and does not help us. .


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