Government covid advisors do not rule out lockdown in worst case scenario

Experts foresee that Catalonia could reach 25,000 daily infections from January onwards

3 min
La Rambla in Barcelona during the nights with curfew in force

BarcelonaIn little more than a month the omicron variant has spread across Europe, and Catalonia is no exception. The experts that make up the Catalan government's advisory committee on covid expect that between this week and the next this variant will have displaced the delta variant and will be dominant in Catalonia. Taking into account Omicron's speed of transmission, it could reach an average of 25,000 infections by January. Given this scenario, scientists on Monday recommended two lines of action: increasing booster jabs and reapplying restrictions to curb infection. The executive has already asked the courts for permission to apply a new curfew and to limit meetings. But in their latest report the experts do not rule out having to consider "short-term confinement" like the one already agreed in Belgium, "in a worst-case scenario".

The darkest scenario that scientists envisage would be a consequence of no restrictions being applied, measures falling short – the curfew and the limit on gatherings need Catalonia's High Court's backing – or not working. In this case, the document warns that the outcome in Catalonia would be similar to Denmark and the United Kingdom, and it could reach "a much higher level" of positives "than has ever been observed during the pandemic", with over 50,000 cases in February, and a volume of hospital admissions "similar to that of the first wave".

According to scientists, the current situation is already complicated, with growing pressure on care. At this point they are already having over 24,000 daily visits to outpatient clinics only due to covid and 30% of ICU beds are taken by coronavirus patients. Without measures, or if these fall short, experts warn, the virus could "overrun care services" in early January, with over 1,000 daily admissions.

On the other hand, the document concludes that the application of restrictions "would flatten the curve" and not exceed 10,000 daily infections, a threshold that has already been exceeded in the last 24 hours. The measures would also help limit hospital pressure, with a level of about 250 admissions each day at most, experts estimate. That is why scientists believed the measures the Government wants to adopt are positive, despite the fact that from the outset they proposed harsher measures: for example, the advisory committee's report proposed that bars and restaurants only open their outdoor spaces, as well as limiting the opening hours of non-essential businesses or limiting gatherings to four people. In fact, in an interview on Radio 4 / La 2, epidemiologist Oriol Mitjà said he was in favour of cancelling parades and delaying the start of classes for a week after Epiphany. On the other hand, the experts' document did not include the curfew the Government is seeking to establish.

Prioritising boosters and the vaccination of adults

The advisory committee considers a "priority" that the Department of Health allocate "all available resources" to vaccinate adults, even activating mechanisms so that "other professionals" can support the vaccination campaign. In the document, experts are concerned about how easily the Omicron variant bypasses protection offered by vaccines: the full guideline certainly reduces the possibility of getting seriously ill, but experts warn that the mutations of the new variant can escape protection, especially for people vaccinated with AstraZeneca or who were jabbed some time ago.

In contrast, the ability to neutralise the virus increases to 72% for people fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca and a booster dose. The same goes for people who have received three doses of other vaccines. Experts also warn that the new variant is "more resistant" to drugs, although there is still not enough scientific data to assess this. Nor are there enough to establish whether Omicron has an impact on the severity of the disease, although preliminary results estimate it is "lower than other variants".