Society 30/03/2021

Health Official calls for restrictions to be respected to avoid 'major' fourth wave

Ministry of Health considering extending quarantines due to British variant

2 min
The director of the Center for Coordination of Alerts and Health Emergencies of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Simon, during a press conference.

MadridThe Ministry of Health believes Easter will be a turning point in the evolution of the coronavirus, as stated on Monday by the director of the Centre for Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), Fernando Simon, who has warned that depending on citizens' behaviour these days will produce an "important" fourth wave or just a "small ripple". In this sense, Simon has appealed to the "responsibility" of the regional governments and citizens to comply with the established restrictions, although many are recommendations and some are hard to enforce. The cumulative incidence stands at the limit of 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants the last 14 days and the trend is slightly upward, but it can be stopped from growing further, he said.

Twelve regions' numbers are on the rise and Madrid region is the one that now has a higher cumulative incidence: 255 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This comes after El País published an image of people in the street without masks after curfew, which Simon has described as "worrying". The epidemiologist has demanded that the authorities implement the measures and has hinted that Madrid is turning a blind eye to the closing hours of bars and restaurants, as well as controlling the curfew. "Easter is coming and it would be ideal if the impact was not that of previous holidays. This depends on the measures taken," he stressed, aware that Christmas brought the third wave by a relaxation of restrictions. However, it has been left in the hands of the communities to tighten the measures above the minimum agreed in the Interterritorial Council.

Simon has been hopeful that Easter does not bring large contagions and that, little by little, the vaccination process is beating the epidemic. "Every week that passes is a week we win," said the technical director of the ministry, who, despite not hiding some "concern" about the epidemiological evolution, has stressed that it was "very likely" that vaccination will end the coronavirus. The scenario is still uncertain, he said, because there is not enough knowledge about the variants in circulation. The most widespread is the British variant, which is being analysed to find out whether it is more harmful than its Wuhan predecessor. Simón explained that longer quarantines are being considered as a way to fight this variant. Quarantines were first reduced from 14 days to 10 as a way to ensure better compliance.

In the meantime, hopes are pinned on the availability of vaccines. This Tuesday the public health commission will meet again and will study an update of the vaccination strategy to be approved in a new Interterritorial Health Council. Simón said that the vast majority of people over 80 will be immunised in the coming weeks and is convinced that the goal of vaccinating 70% of the population this summer will also be achieved. Precisely, the vaccinated groups could be the first to see the measures against the coronavirus made more flexible, including the use of the mask. Simon has pointed out that progressively we will have to face the debate of removing restrictions where there is no risk.