Covid: Epidemiologists call for caution in pre-Christmas celebrations after the super contagious event in Malaga | Society

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A Christmas meal, an outbreak, and at least 68 infected. The spread of the coronavirus in the celebration of the Malaga Regional Hospital staff, attended by 173 professionals from the ICU team, is a good example of the risks of the coming weeks in Spain: super contagious events that drive the infection curve up , not necessarily causing immediate hospitalizations – according to health sources, all those affected are mild or asymptomatic – but quarantines, work disorders and an increase in the saturation of primary and public health services. It is a wake-up call that helps epidemiologists to remember what the health authorities repeat: SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate and if the measures are relaxed in a period of many social encounters (long weekend, company dinners, Christmas … .) there will be consequences.

Clara Prats, a researcher in Computational Biology at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), sums up the situation like this: “Growth will continue for at least the next two weeks. Beyond that, it is difficult to make predictions. Regardless of whether we peak at Christmas, a week before or a week later, on those dates we will be at fairly high levels of transmission. Therefore, the probability that in any meeting, be it work or family, between an infected person is not negligible. So you have to act accordingly: do not hold large meetings, limit them to the closest ones, monitor ventilation ”.

The Ministry of Health does not at the moment intend to impose drastic limitations and hopes that the situation will be controlled with the measures that the communities already have at their disposal. For the moment, they have ignored a document from the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, directed by Fernando Simón, which recommended on November 30 “to establish limits on the number of participants in public and social events, especially during celebrations of the Christmas holidays ”. The minister, Carolina Darias, made a call last week for vaccination and prevention, reinforcing the measures that have been useful, such as the mask, whose use outdoors she emphasized when the distance cannot be maintained on dates when crowds in the streets they are frequent, as has been shown in this bridge in the big Spanish cities.

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High community transmission affects many aspects of life, as recalls Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, professor of Public Health at the Autonomous University of Madrid. “For this reason, we must continue vaccinating the unvaccinated [el ritmo ha aumentado algo desde que algunas comunidades comenzaron a pedir el certificado covid], speed up booster [dosis de refuerzo] vaccination programs and extend them below the age of 60, start with children as soon as possible to protect them, and above all, reduce transmission and reinforce non-pharmacological prevention measures [distancia, mascarilla, aforos, ventilación]”, emphasizes.

What the consequences of this sixth wave are will depend on the level of spread of the coronavirus. In a predominantly vaccinated population, the risk of a generalized overcrowding of hospitals is more unlikely. With a cumulative incidence (AI) in Spain of 248 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days (and rising), the situation in most communities is still low risk, but seven have already reached medium, according to the covid traffic light of the Ministry of Health. The impact will be very different if the AI ​​reaches 500 cases than if it reaches 1,000 or 2,000. And this largely depends on the behavior of citizens.

Alberto Infante, professor at the National School of Health, is very pessimistic: “We are going badly and if we continue without doing what is necessary we will get worse. Christmas will be bitter and January will be very black. In Guipúzcoa [954 casos por 100.000 habitantes en 14 días], which has incidents like the Netherlands, are already transferring covid patients to hospitals in Bizkaia and Álava and postponing non-urgent surgeries ”.

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There are examples, such as the Danish, which suffers its largest wave of positives since the pandemic began – it has exceeded a cumulative incidence (AI) of 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days – but which, with 76.7% of the population vaccinated, has less than half as many hospitalized as last winter, when it did not reach 800 cases of AI, according to data from the repository Our World in Data.

Even in a scenario much more reassuring than that of a year ago, a steep curve could affect healthcare activity, as has happened in Belgium: more than 2,100 AI, 74.8% of the population with a complete regimen and hospital pressure that, although it is far from its worst moments, it does seriously concern its authorities.

Although it is difficult to establish precise comparisons between countries, since there are many differences between them beyond the vaccination data, it is a framework that Spain can use to make references. With 80% of the population vaccinated, the experts consulted insist that it is advisable to be cautious during this bridge and all the celebrations around Christmas so as not to be in trouble. In short: vaccines have greatly reduced the danger of covid, but the more cases, the more likely it is to have serious health consequences, especially for the most vulnerable.

Several people eat inside a restaurant in the center of Madrid.
Several people eat inside a restaurant in the center of Madrid. Bald Elm

Ildefonso Hernández, Professor of Public Health at the Miguel Hernández University of Alicante, is committed to learning from what we are seeing in other countries: “That massive indoor encounters without a mask carry risks and that we must avoid them. And remember what we persistently repeat: ventilation, distance and a mask ”.

The relaxation of the measures has been evident in recent weeks. The Junta de Castilla y León, for example, has opened an investigation to elucidate possible responsibilities before the massive celebration of a concert in Valladolid in which the vast majority of the 4,500 attendees did not use masks, according to the EFE agency.

An attention call

Both the Malaga outbreak and the new omicron variant may be a wake-up call, despite the fact that it is unknown what impact the latter may have and that its presence in Spain is still anecdotal.

In Malaga, many restaurants are already noticing cancellations of Christmas parties, reports Nacho sanchez. Most hospitals have already suspended them; and, beyond that, several establishments consulted have assured that they have canceled several reservations of between 50 or 60 diners, who had booked the entire establishment, but who, at the last minute, have decided to suspend. “They all tell us the same thing: that the companies, which were the ones that paid for the food, are afraid of contagion,” says a chef from the capital.

We will have to wait to see if these first sensations spread to the rest of the country. The hospitality sector expected a good month of December, with an expected turnover of around 10 billion euros, which would be 10% less than in December 2019. It would represent a huge comeback compared to 2020, in which a 50% compared to the last year without a pandemic. But the rise in the curve threatens the sector again.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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