Health Dpt foresees ICU to peak next week at 700 patients

Minister admits not foreseeing extent of fifth wave and announces creation of a scientific advisory committee

3 min
A coronavirus patient to ICU

BarcelonaCovid contagions are already going down across all age bands in Catalonia, but this improvement won't be felt by ICU until next week, according to Catalan Minister of Health Josep Maria Argimon, who appeared before Parliament's Health commission to give explanations on how the fifth wave was dealt with. Argimon, who was self-critical on the failure to foresee the "tsunami" it has become, pointed out that the peak in admissions to ICU is expected between 3 and 4 August, with about 700 patients. This figure had not been reached since the second wave.

The situation of the pandemic, he said, is still "complicated", although the rate of infection is falling and decreasing day by day between 18% and 20%. He is confident of ending the week having reached the peak of regular hospital admissions, although the rate of decline is not expected to be as fast as the increase was. According to the latest data, today there are 14 more patients than yesterday in ICUs and the total figure stands at 549. Hospital admissions in conventional wards have risen to 2,243 people.

Argimon, who has appeared at the request of En Comú Podem, has admitted that the Health Department did not foresee the scope and consequences the fifth wave would have, but has pointed out that it was a global error and has remarked that there is a statement signed by around forty scientific societies that, in addition to warning of the situation, points out that no one was able to predict this explosion in cases and calls to reduce all social interaction until there is a truly protective percentage of vaccinees. The Minister of Health made a similar point, recalling that social interaction was always behind the increase in infections and that in the case of this latest wave it has been combined with the strong irruption of the delta variant and a social feeling of "normality".

Catalonia, according to Argimon, worked with a scenario that predicted that the Rt could jump up to 2.3, although it ended up being 3.8. "I has already admitted to part of the responsibility but you have to look at all the elements," said Argimon. And in this set of elements he has cited that the forecasts were favorable and did not point to a growth of cases as occurred and that the rate of vaccination was very good but "not enough to contain the pandemic". Argimon has pointed out that they calculated that, with 52% of the population fully vaccinated, by mid-July the curve would decrease, which is not what happened. Now experts say that it will be necessary to go well above 70% of vaccinated population to achieve herd immunity

Concerts and public stadiums

The minister has argued that there was a series of factors that explained the explosion of cases, ranging from the end of the school year to the celebration of large concerts and music festivals, to the arrival of the delta variant. He has also pointed to the change in social perception of the pandemic after measures such as the return of crowds to football stadiums - the government has backtracked and banned attendance to Barça's friendly against Juventus - or face coverings no longer being compulsory outdoors. "A sense of normality that was not the most appropriate," he said. Argimon has admitted to a part of responsibility on points such as allowing large concerts. In this sense, he explained that the decision on June 21 to authorise major events, made from positive experiences such as concerts at the Apollo and Palau Sant Jordi, was adopted with a "frankly good" epidemiological situation.

Argimon also announced the creation of a scientific advisory council on covid-19 to be able to make better forecasts. "There are no magic solutions," he warned, adding that work will be done to strengthen co-governance to avoid the judicialization of measures and also in raising the population's awareness to make it clear that "pandemics do not end all at once" and that there may be new variants. On the possibility of having to alter health staff's holidays, he said he would work to avoid it but has pointed out that it is not sensible to state emphatically that will not necessary: "We will do everything we can not to affect them".