Catalonia would have 7,000 more deaths from covid if it acted like Madrid, say Argimon and Padrós

The Health Department will receive 160,000 doses from AstraZeneca on Friday, out of the one million arriving in Spain

4 min

BarcelonaThe secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, and the president of the Barcelona College of Doctors, Jaume Padrós, have assured that Catalonia would have 6,000 or 7,000 more deaths if it had acted as the Community of Madrid, governed by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has done. In a conversation with Antoni Bassas, the two doctors have highlighted the differences in the management of the pandemic between the two communities and have assumed that mistakes have also been made in Catalonia. Argimon took advantage of the interview with the ARA to announce that this Friday "between the morning and the afternoon" 160,000 AstraZeneca doses of the million vaccines that Spain has received will arrive in Catalonia. "We will start administering them on Saturday and continue on Sunday and Monday", he explained, although he clarified that no vaccines will be inoculated on Friday. When the doses are delivered, the Health Department needs a certain margin of manoeuvre to check the batches, make new citations, defrost the vials and distribute them.

Argimon said that the pace of inoculation in the coming days will be marked by the reservation of "a few thousand vaccines" for second doses. "We have to give time for new shipments", he explained, since the laboratory has not yet announced any new shipments for next week. The Public Health Secretary anticipated that between 90,000 and 100,000 of the 160,000 doses that are due to arrive in the next seven days. "Yesterday we did 77,000 vaccinations and today we will administer 70,000 more to use up the available doses", he said.

Antoni Bassas has interviewed Dr. Argimon and Dr. Jaume Padrós, president of the College of Physicians of Barcelona, to present the book '2 metges i 1 pandèmia. La vida i el que l'envolta' (translated as "2 doctors and 1 pandemic. Life and what surrounds it"), of which they are the protagonists. The book is written in a conversation format, by the journalist Gemma Bruna, and in it they reflect on the Catalan health system in the middle of a pandemic and everything that has happened during this last year. The royalties from the book will go to Fundació Arrels.

"Madrid is not a benchmark for management"

Dr Padrós has stated that the management of the pandemic by the Community of Madrid, led by Isabel Díaz Ayuso, "cannot be a benchmark for Catalonia": "When the community of doctors and scientists observe what is happening, we are astonished". On the Madrid miracle, understood as the maintenance of the opening of bars and restaurants practically throughout the pandemic, Padrós assures that it has been achieved with a higher loss of life.

"If we were to transfer the management of the pandemic from Madrid to Catalonia, despite the fact that here it has not been perfect, we would now have to count 6,000 or 7,000 more deaths. Catalan society would not tolerate this, we would have to ask about the tolerance of the Madrid society", he insisted. Argimon also assured that this is not "the strategy I would follow".

The United States has recently approved new over-the-counter tests as a clear strategy against covid. In Madrid, it can already be done in pharmacies and dental clinics, while in Catalonia this possibility is subject to screening organised by the Health Department, which considers that it is not advisable to do so where medicines are dispensed. "But, after a war with the state, which in February authorised them to do so, do you know how many tests Madrid has carried out? 4.000. And this helps very little", insisted Argimon, who argues that in a targeted screening like the one being done now in Lleida, this figure can be achieved in four days.

Regarding the number of deaths compared to Madrid, last February the ARA reported that, taking into account population differences, if Catalonia had had the same mortality rate as Madrid there would have been 4,870 more deaths than those registered.

'Zero deaths' before autumn

Argimon welcomed the fact that the UK recorded no new deaths from covid-19 on Wednesday and praised its vaccination strategy. "It is quite successful, because they are vaccinating a lot of older people and because they have a lot of vaccines, which is key to vaccinate fast and a lot. But we will also have to see over time whether it is a successful plan, because they have vaccinated without regard, delaying the vaccines of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca by twelve weeks", he explained.

In this sense, the Secretary of Public Health has assured that this scenario of zero "deaths" can be achieved "before the autumn", when the vaccination strategy advances and when there is an optimal availability of vaccines to protect the most vulnerable, either by age or by vital risk. Argimon and Padrós have watered down the possibility of achieving 70% of the vaccinated population by July 15. "If the doses had arrived on time a month or a month and a half ago, we would have achieved it", Argimon said.

The most realistic date, then, is the one that the Ministry of Health has been putting on the table for weeks: the end of the summer. "I hope it will be 21 September, because it seems that more vaccines are starting to arrive now, but we would have to receive some 400,000 or 450,000 a week", Argimon insisted. This is double the number of vaccines received in the last two weeks.

Nevertheless, the experts believe that in summer a change will be noticeable because the most vulnerable populations will be protected and, therefore, they will be living with a disease with an acceptable risk for the health system, like many other pathologies. Be that as it may, however, Padrós insists that the face mask is here to stay for a long time, especially in enclosed spaces such as the metro.