05/08/2021

Mass festivals were also a source of contagion. Could we not have known?

2 min
Vida Festival Audience

For several weeks Catalonia has been the black spot of the European Union in terms of infection numbers, and yesterday there were still 581 people in Catalan ICUs. These patients who are now critically ill are the result of what happened then, and one only has to look at the graphs to see that the rise in infections in this fifth wave has doubled the peaks of previous waves. The expected report on how the contagions worked at the three big festivals that were authorised at the beginning of July was made public on Wednesday. In light of what has happened, it was predictable that there would be many more infected than what was expected. The three massive summer festivals - Vida, Canet Rock and Cruïlla -, which were treated by the Health Dpt as a clinical trial in which all attendees were required to take an antigen test before entering and there was a follow-up of part of the attendees to see the degree of infection afterwards, caused more infections than the Department expected. In total, 2,279 people were infected among the 49,570 who participated in the pilot sample, 842 more than would have been infected if they had not gone to the festival, according to the analysis. It has also been found that 271 people knew they had tested positive but "snuck" into the festival anyway.

When the data became known, the nuances came out. The secretary of Public Health, Carmen Cabezas, has taken the heat out of the results by saying that some 800 extra cases in a fifth wave in which there were 8,000 new cases a day is not so much when compared to other risk situations that have caused large outbreaks, such as graduation parties, end-of-year trips or the opening of restaurants. And festivals themselves have even questioned the data considering that the festivals could not be held responsible for the contagions after up to 14 days because the infection could have occurred in other areas. All this is surprising. As the Catalan Health minister, Josep Maria Argimon, recognised at the time, it was a mistake to authorise the mass festivals with standing public, and the rapid easing of restrictions that took place in Sant Joan was a mistake once again. It would be good if all these studies were used to make self-criticism, take measures, assume responsibilities and, above all, not repeat the mistakes.

However, there is little hope that this will be the case. This fifth wave, with the virulence of the delta variant, took everyone by surprise, true, but we have the dubious honour of having managed it in one of the worst possible ways. And if we don't acknowledge it, we won't improve. The pressures from festivals, the leisure industry and the catering industry are very strong and everyone is very keen to go out, have a good time - and for this nightmare to be over. At the end of June we were very happy about how the vaccination was progressing, Sánchez said that we could take off our masks in the street and it seemed that the summer would be almost like before the pandemic. In that context it might have made sense to do some tests and open up, but the experience of last year, when clearly the rapid opening by Sant Joan caused the summer infection increases, should have served as a warning and should have led to extra caution, which clearly did not exist. Now we know that we can't trust the virus, and that until now we have always gone too fast. It would be good to react.

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