When the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Spaniards were ordered to stay home for more than three months. For weeks they couldn’t even go out to play sports. Boys were forbidden to go to the square, and the economy was practically paralyzed.
But authorities said the crackdown had prevented a collapse whole health system. Lives were saved they affirmed.
Now, almost two years later, Spain is preparing to adopt a different strategy against COVID-19.
With one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe and one of the economies hardest hit by the pandemic, the government is laying the groundwork to deal with the next outbreak not as an emergencybut as a disease that is here to stay. Portugal and Great Britain are studying similar approaches.
Switch from crisis mode to damage control
The idea is to go from crisis mode to damage control, and tackle the virus in a similar way to the flu or measles. That means accept that there will be infections and offer additional care to those most at risk and to patients with complications.
The president of the center-left Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, wants the European Union consider similar changes now that the wave of the omicron variant has shown be less lethal.
“We say that over the next few months and over the next few years we are going to have to address as science tells usSlowly but surely, the how do we start to manage this pandemic from other parameters,” he said Monday.
80% of the Spanish population completed their vaccination, and the authorities are focused on strengthening the immunity of adults. Photo: AP
The changes should not begin until the omicron wave has passed, Sánchez said, but the authorities have to start shape ya to the post-pandemic world. “We’re doing our homework right, I mean, just anticipating scenarios”, he pointed.
The World Health Organization has said it is too early to consider an immediate change. The organization does not have clearly defined criteria for when COVID-19 might be classified as an endemic disease, but its experts have said in the past that it will be when the virus be more predictable Y no continuous breakouts.
“In a way it’s a subjective question because it’s not just about the number of cases. It’s about gravity, and it’s about impact,” explained Dr. Michael Ryan, head of emergencies at the WHO.
Speaking at a round table at the World Economic Forum, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top medical officer for infectious diseases in the United States, indicated that COVID-19 could not be considered endemic until it refers to “a level that does not disrupt society.”
Anthony Fauci said COVID-19 could not be considered endemic until it subsides to “a level that doesn’t disrupt society.” Photo: AP
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that countries transition to more routine management of COVID-19 once the severe phase of the pandemic has passed. The agency indicated in a statement that other countries besides Spain will want to adopt a “surveillance strategy more sustainable long term”.
Just over 80% of the Spanish population has completed their vaccination, and the authorities are focusing on boost the immunity of adults with booster dose.
Vaccine-acquired immunity, coupled with widespread infection, offers an opportunity to focus prevention efforts, diagnostic tests and screening resources in groups with moderate or high risk, indicated Dr. Salvador Trenche, head of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine, which has led the requests to change the strategy.
The treatment of COVID-19 must be “like the rest of the diseases” Trenche told The Associated Press. A “standardized care” of health professionals would help reduce delays in the treatment of problems not related to the coronavirus.
The public also needs to assume that “It will be inevitable” that there will be some deaths of COVID-19.
“What cannot be is that we continue doing the same thing we did with the first wave,” he said. “Y the model has to do different things if we want to achieve different results”.
The “flu” of covid
The Spanish Ministry of Health said that it was too early to share the specific plans that experts and advisers are drawing up, although it confirmed that one of the proposals is to continue the “sentinel surveillance” model used in the EU to follow influenza epidemics.
The strategy has been dubbed COVID-19 “flu” by the Spanish media, although authorities say considerable changes will have to be made to adapt flu systems to the new coronavirus.
For now, the debate on changing strategy limited to rich countries who can afford to talk about the worst of the pandemic in the past.
It is also not clear how an endemic strategy would coexist with the attitude of “zero COVID” maintained by China and other Asian countries, and how that would affect international travel.
Many countries overwhelmed by record numbers of omicron cases have already given up massive testing campaigns and reduced deadlines quarantine, especially for workers with cold-like symptoms.
Face-to-face classes in Spanish schools are only interrupted if there are large outbreaks. Photo: AP
Since the beginning of the year, face-to-face classes in Spanish schools have only been interrupted if there are large shoots, not the first reported case as before.
In Portugal, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, the president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, declared in a New Year’s speech that the country has “passed into an endemic phase.” But the debate on specific measures faded into the background when infections accelerated to break records, with almost 44,000 new infections in 24 hours reported on Tuesday.
However, hospital admissions and deaths in countries with high vaccination rates they are much smaller in proportion as in previous waves.
In Britain, the use of masks in public spaces and COVID-19 passports will be abandoned on January 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday, declaring that the latest outbreak had “peaked nationally.” ‘.
The requirement that infected people self-isolate for five days will remain in place, though Johnson said he would try to remove it in the coming weeks if data on the virus they keep getting better. Official statistics estimate that the 95% of the British population have developed antibodies against COVID-19, either by vaccines or by infections.
“As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal mandates with advice and recommendations, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate with the others,” Johnson said.
Vaccination in a bar in Berlin. Photo: AP
For other European governments, the idea of normalizing COVID-19 clashes with their efforts to boost vaccination among reluctant groups.
In Germany, where less than 73% of the population have completed their vaccination and contagion rates break records Almost daily, the authorities reject comparisons with Spain or with any other country.
“We still have too many unvaccinated people, especially among our older citizens,” German Health Ministry spokesman Andreas Deffner said Monday.
Italy has expanded its vaccination mandatory for all citizens aged 50 or over and imposes fines of up to 1,500 euros on unvaccinated people who go to work. Italians must also have completed their vaccination to access public transport, planes, gyms, hotels and trade fairs.
By Aritz Parra, Associated Press