Virus down, but concern over overconfidence rises
Experts call for restraint in social gatherings until at-risk groups are fully immunised
GironaThe incidence of the virus continues to decline in Catalonia, but the speed at which it does is decreasing as a consequence of the easing of restrictions. "The fall has slowed down a lot", says Biocomsc group researcher Enric Àlvarez, who adds: "[Case numbers] were falling very fast and we had a large margin, but now this margin has become narrower. That is, socialisation has increased a lot". That is why there are experts like virologist of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) Margarita del Val who warn of the dangers of overconfidence: "Until we have all risk groups vaccinated we cannot relax, because the virus will take advantage of any truce that you give it to attack again"
By analysing different indicators, we can put numbers on the delay of the decrease. Thus, the number of new weekly cases has fallen from 4,820 to 3,978 (-17%), but the decline is less than that of the previous week (-32%). The fall in the percentage of positive tests has also slowed down: it is now 3.68% and, although it is still below the 5% recommended by WHO, the decrease has been 2% when three weeks ago it was 18% (although then the positivity rate was 4.64).
It is also necessary to follow the increase in the reproduction rate (Rt) closely: from 0.77 to 0.96. This means that for every 100 new positives, 96 people are infected. "So far, the increase in the Rt has not translated into an increase in the number of cases. But from 4,000 positives per week there is always a danger that, suddenly, it climbs fast and drags the data of hospitalisations and deaths to not so good figures, "says Alvarez, who stresses the favourable evolution of the number of hospitalised and deceased: last week the decline in the number of hospitalisations (from 1069 to 859), occupation of ICU beds (from 364 to 270) and deaths (from 51 to 30) continued.
"It seems that deaths are consolidating at below 40 per week, that is, we are below 5 per day. And this is a direct consequence of vaccination," stressed the researcher, who also emphasises the good data recorded in the range of people over 80, also thanks to immunisation: "Their incidence is five times lower than the Catalan average, when it had been well above. And for people in their 70s will soon be the same". "It's amazing the effect of vaccination, the data of the over-70s is fantastic," he says enthusiastically.
By territories, the researcher points out that we have to be very attentive to Central Catalonia "because it has some data that indicates that it could start to rise". Solsonès is the region with the highest positivity (9.88, triple the Catalan average) and the highest cumulative incidence (382.34). "Even so, it is Garrotxa that continues with the highest incidence, although it has fallen quite a lot," adds Àlvarez, who also believes that you have to keen an eye on data for Anoia "because it seems that it has the potential to grow".
Hold on for two more months
Although the evolution of the last few weeks is good, both Àlvarez and virologist Margarita del Val warn of the danger of relaxing before the two doses reach all at-risk groups. "I'm not so interested in the percentage of vaccinated population. It would be useless, for example, to vaccinate children because we gain nothing. For me the priority is to vaccinate all high-risk groups and identify the profiles of people who are at high risk even if we do not know why," says the CSIC researcher, who estimates that in about two months we will be able to breathe more easily: this will be the time needed to identify the groups most vulnerable to the virus, vaccinate them and wait a few weeks for the vaccines to take effect.
If not, warns Del Val, there is a risk of a situation similar to that in Chile or India developing, where incidences rates have soared despite the progress in immunisation. "In Spain, 19 out of 20 deaths were of people over 65. But in India, until now, most deaths were young people, but because its population is not so old. They thought they were a very resistant population and, with the start of vaccination, they became confident, so that later they have had many problems again".
In fact, this is precisely the expert's main concern: overconfidence may allow covid to jump back. "If we allow it to do so, the virus will continue to spread. We have to wait two months," she insists.