Society 10/06/2021

Covid death toll plummets

Easing of restrictions does not stop decline in indicators thanks to vaccination

3 min
A nurse preparing a dose of covid -19 vaccine.
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BarcelonaWith almost 40% of the elderly population vaccinated, the pandemic has experienced a 180-degree turn: despite the increase in social interaction, the protection of the most vulnerable people is reducing to a minimum the mortality caused by covid and intensive care units (ICU) continue to empty slowly but steadily. The last seven days are recording figures that have not been seen for almost a year, when Catalonia had emerged from total lockdown. The difference is that while in July last year the epidemic was on the rise again, now it is on the decline.

Those admitted in critical hospital areas (197) are now less than 200, something that has not happened since October 12, in the second wave, and although unfortunately there are still deaths from coronavirus mortality has plummeted in a matter of weeks: if on May 9, just a month ago, 105 fatalities were reported weekly, this Wednesday only 13 have been reported. In fact, there have already been two days in which not a single covid death has been reported - with consolidated data, no deaths were reported on May 27 or May 30 - and the last week has seen an average of two per day.

The current scenario is completely different from only six months ago, when the immunisation campaign started and the main concern of the health authorities was to avoid a repetition of new health collapses and continue the black count of fatalities. And indeed, the more than 4.8 million doses administered throughout the country since last January have prevented at least 800 deaths from covid, according to a study by researchers from the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (Biocom-SC) of the UPC. In total, 22,213 people have lost their lives in Catalonia due to covid since the beginning of the epidemic.

The same report points out that the vaccines have avoided more than 38,000 days of hospitalisation in the ward and more than 7,000 days in the ICU, because the aim of the vaccines is precisely to prevent people from getting seriously ill and end up dying. This Wednesday there are 582 patients with covid admitted to Catalan hospitals. A fortnight ago there were 860.

And, although it was not the primary goal, vaccines are also limiting transmission: researchers estimate that they have prevented about 9,000 infections, because it is considered that the protection of at least one member of a family serves as a firewall within the nucleus.

"Moderate" risk

Vaccination also explains why, as a result of such an evident increase in social interaction and an increasingly accelerated easing of restrictions, the indicators continue to fall and that, for the moment, there has been no outbreak of contagions. On the contrary, Catalonia is for the first time since last July at risk of a moderate resurgence: right now this indicator that allows us to anticipate a potential increase in the epidemic stands at 89 points, a far cry from the 800 at the beginning of the year.

The EPG is obtained through two key variables - the rate of infection (R number) and the cumulative incidence at fourteen days - which have also been decreasing for weeks. For the moment, both are under control. The R number, which calculates how many new infections can be generated on average from a single infection, remains below 1 (specifically, 0.90), and this means that, although transmission is still high, the virus is not accelerating the spread.

As for the cumulative incidence, which estimates how many people have been infected in the last fourteen days in a territory and based on the population residing in it, 99 cases per 100,000 inhabitants are being diagnosed. Thus, on a scale of risk in which reporting 50 cases is equivalent to a low risk of spread and more than 150 cases to a high risk, Catalonia is in a medium risk situation. In the last seven days 3,532 positive cases have been confirmed, about half a thousand infections per day on average, especially among young people who are not yet vaccinated, mainly under 40.

Positive PCR and antigen tests have also stabilised at around 3.3%, below the 5% that the World Health Organization considers the threshold for controlling the epidemic.