Society 26/02/2021

ICUs are still very full and on alert due to the British variant

Covid gains ground in Aran, Osona and Cerdanya regions

2 min
Nurses and doctors of one of the ICU of the Hospital de la Vall de Hebron attending a serious patient of covid -19

GironaCatalonia begins ten decisive days for the evolution of the pandemic. The number of new infections continues to fall - in two weeks it has gone from more than 14,000 cases per week to 10,000 - but the R number is rising: from 0.88 to 1.03 in seven days, which means that every 100 new positives infect 103 people. Likewise, the percentage of positive tests has risen again: from 4.30% to 5.30%, when the WHO states that being above 5% means that not enough tests are being done. In fact, in 15 days the number of PCR and antigen tests carried out has been reduced by 30%: from 295,000 to 210,000, between 16 and 22 February.

The most worrying figure, however, continues to be ICU bed occupancy. The figure maintains the downward trend that began at the beginning of the month, but on February 25 there were still about a thousand people in critical condition: 562 for covid and 427 for other pathologies. Before the pandemic, in Catalonia there were just over 600 critical beds in total. "If there were now an upturn in cases, the new admissions would be added to the current ones and we could reach very high figures that would force to deprogram the non-covid care activity", Alba Vergés, the Minister of Health, has warned at a press conference to announce the relaxation of some measures, such as the reopening of shopping centers.

Without reference models

With the baggage of a year of experience, researchers like those of the Biocomsc group of the UPC could make forecasts of the evolution that the pandemic would have from several indicators. Now, however, there is a new factor that alters calculations: the British variant, which is between 50% and 70% more transmissible, and that the Health Department predicts that in ten or fifteen days it will be the predominant one in Catalonia, after weeks on the rise.

"Until now we knew the variant we had well, but with the British variant we are a bit blind and it is very difficult to predict scenarios", admitted Biocomsc group researcher Clara Prats. The reason is that there are only two models of countries where the British mutation has replaced the previous one. On the one hand, the United Kingdom and Portugal - where this new variant caused an "explosive" effect of new positive cases - and on the other hand there is Denmark, which, for the moment, is managing to contain the growth despite the fact that it has been gaining ground for weeks.

However, the Danish government has applied harsher measures: in December it closed schools and all non-essential economic activity, and only this February some restrictions have been eased. However, high schools, universities, gyms, theatres, cinemas and restaurants will remain closed until April.

However, in Catalonia, the predominance of the British variant will coincide with the reopening of some activities. "From the epidemiological point of view it would not be the best idea to relax measures, but we understand that the Health Department has to try to find a balance point, because we have been living with these restrictions for almost two months", said Prats, who has stressed that we have to be very attentive to the contagion figures.