Society 14/05/2021

Hospitals are being emptied of covid patients

Admissions due to coronavirus fall to second wave figures and some restrictions are reduced

4 min
Health staff attending a patient in the ICU of the Hospital de Bellvitge yesterday.

Santa Coloma de GramenetLittle by little, hospital admissions due to coronavirus are decreasing. If last week there were 1,432 people admitted in health centers in Catalonia, this Friday the figure has dropped to 1,139. In just seven days the occupation of covid plants has experienced a significant drop of 20%, thanks mainly to the decline in admissions of people over 60 years old, who are being vaccinated and, therefore, protected from complications due to the virus in case of infection. "The epidemic is decreasing due to the effect of vaccination, the measures that have been taken and the solidarity and support of citizens. The situation is under control, and if we continue on this path an increase is unlikely, but we have to remain vigilant", the Health Minister, Alba Vergés, said on Friday.

The general secretary of Health, Marc Ramentol, has assured that vaccination has meant "a paradigm shift" in the pandemic. "The combination of assets such as the vaccine, the tracking of infections and public responsibility allows us to keep the pandemic under control despite the intense opening of recent weeks", he explained. However, the Health Department continues to ask for caution and makes it clear that, although the pandemic is "changing shape", it is not over yet. For example, the direct effect of vaccines on intensive care units (ICU) is still too subtle, although the occupation continues travelling down: this Friday there were 399 patients admitted, 70 less than last week.

This decline is partly due to a reduction in infections among vaccinated groups, but still half of the most susceptible population is either not vaccinated or has not received the second dose. Seventy per cent of people in the 60-69 age group, who represent a third of those admitted to critical care, have already received the first dose of the vaccine. In contrast, only 18% of people aged 50-59 years (20% of ICU admissions) have started their vaccination schedule. In addition, one in ten of those admitted are between 40 and 49 years of age and, until June, this group is not expected to start vaccination.

Researchers from the Computational Biology and Complex Systems Group (Biocom), who prepare reports on epidemiological and healthcare developments for the European Commission, note that the ICUs are "also gaining margin" but more slowly, and point out that an improvement can be seen next week, before the effects of the lifting of the state of alert can be observed. Experts assume that the easing of restrictions will have an impact on contagions, but are confident that it will be a mild one.

More flexible restrictions

Epidemiological and healthcare improvements have led the Government to consider taking new steps in easing of restrictions after 24 May, when the current resolution expires. In this case, Procicat wants to increase capacity in those sectors where, until now, it was limited. For example, it will authorise the cultural sector to fill facilities to 70% of capacity, but with a limit of one thousand people in enclosed spaces and up to 3,000 outdoors or in venues with reinforced ventilation. Vergés also plans to increase the capacity of businesses and the number of people attending universities by up to 50%.

The Government will also authorise bars and restaurants to open at six in the morning, when up until now they can only do so from half past seven in the morning. However, they will still have to close at 11pm. In addition, the resumption of congresses and conventions will be allowed without the need for Procicat authorisation.

Be it as it is, the department of Home Affairs will reinforce police controls in the first complete weekend without state of alarm to avoid agglomerations like those of last weekend. As explained by Minister Miquel Sàmper, the Mossos d'Esquadra will be "more active and more dynamic" in the usual places where people concentrate. The spokesman for the force, Joan Carles Molinero, explained that this is not a specific device but that instructions have been given to the public safety and public order units that work in an ordinary way "to make a special emphasis" on the hot spots.

In this sense, Sàmper has called for "co-responsibility". It is "obvious", he said, that you can go out at night but warned that the measures to prevent contagion are still in force "both at five in the afternoon and three in the morning". The authorities were concerned about the images of massive parties seen last weekend, but Minister Vergés has admitted that it is still "early" to see if the end of the state of alarm and the images of crowds, as well as the recovery of freedom, has impacted on contagions. "What we do see is that despite the reopening that has been taking place during the last few weeks, infections or hospitalizations have not grown", she defended.

The effect of vaccines

And the vaccination campaign has a lot to do with this control, the effects of which are increasingly evident, also in the transmission of the virus. Between 4 and 10 April, the period most updated by the Health Department, 6,988 cases of covid were diagnosed. It had been five months, at the start of the third wave, since less than a thousand infections per day (998) on average had been detected. In fact, we have to go back to 15 July last year to see a daily figure of less than a thousand (928) in the registers.

According to the daily report prepared by the Agency for Health Quality and Assessment (AQuAS) and Biocom, the cumulative incidence of the last 14 days in all age groups is still high, 216 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, but significantly lower than the 250 cases recorded last Friday, 4 May.

"The path we are taking is the right one. We haven't had figures for cases like this since the summer, for hospital admissions since the second wave and for ICUs since the beginning of the third wave", said Vergés, who pointed out that the fourth wave is decreasing thanks to the "intensity of the vaccination campaign".