COVID-19 is a virus the whole world has been dealing with for the past two years and it looks like it’s here to stay!
However, the only hope as far as ending the pandemic is concerned is reaching a point where it can be downgraded to a “flu-like” virus aka an endemic and it sounds like Spain may be ready to do just that!
This comes only two years after Spain registered no less than 1,000 deaths from COVID daily!
In spite of this, the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, encouraged his EU counterparts to take into consideration the possibility of starting to treat COVID-19 just as we have been treating the flu for many years.
The European leader said this and more while on a local radio channel.
During the discussion, he insisted that the situation in Spain “is not what we faced a year ago” and that it is now the right time “to evaluate the evolution of COVID to an endemic illness.”
If this were to take place, lockdowns and COVID-19 infection counts would be dropped in favor of a system much more similar to how we keep flu cases in check today.
The PM’s suggestion comes just as a number of new studies suggest that the Omicron variant is actually milder than the previous strains of the virus.
Not only that but booster shots are also generally able to protect people from contracting Omicron or developing really serious symptoms, as per health officials.
In the meantime, the Sun’s Jabs Army campaign has been aiding in getting the doses of vaccine to all UK citizens so that no further restrictions will need to be put in place.
However, this measure is undoubtedly going to meet at least some resistance from countries such as France and Germany where the vaccination rates are still low.
French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, has promised to make social life as difficult as possible for those unvaccinated as a way to force them to take the jab.
Sánchez mentioned that Spain has registered “exemplary” vaccine uptake.
Indeed, the data shows that over 90 percent of all Spanish citizens with ages over 11 have been fully vaccinated while 85 percent of those over the age of 60 have also received a booster shot to improve their protection as much as possible given the fact that they’re also in the age group most at risk.
And it looks like it’s working! Spain has been able to see its death rate drop to only 1 percent from 13 percent which is what it was back when the first COVID-19 wave happened.
Back then, Spain would see a scary 1,000 fatalities every day.
Comparatively, the UK has registered that 83 percent of the population aged 12 and over is fully vaccinated while a total of 63 percent of them have also received the booster dose.
The Spanish PM believes that it is now the time to respond to the virus with completely “new instruments” among them being Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid.
Of course, vaccines and the mask mandates are expected to remain in place as well, reports Fortune.
Spain’s health ministry has also been able to create a COVID-19 monitoring system also known as “sentinel” which is very similar to the system originally used to keep track of seasonal flu outbreaks in the country.
The way it works is that it uses sample data from doctors in order to predict and also respond to different outbreaks of the virus instead of keeping count of all cases by using a test-and-trace system.
Senior Spanish scientist, Amparo Larrauri, told El Pais that “Now, given [Omicron’s] huge transmissibility, it is a massive challenge to strictly comply with universal surveillance protocols. It’s becoming impossible.”
Spain is currently in the middle of its sixth COVID wave but they have imposed a rather relaxed approach by shortening the isolation period from ten to only seven days.
Furthermore, they have also decided to only quarantine students from classrooms where at least 5 of the students test positive as to avoid a total outbreak.
It’s important to note that not all epidemiologists agree with Sánchez that the country should treat COVID just like the flu.
Former WHO Director, Daniel López-Acuña, shared on a Spanish news network that “It is inappropriate to trivialize the 6th wave and think that we are in an endemic phase. This type of discourse doesn’t obey a rigorous epidemiological analysis. It’ll happen in many months but not now.”
Furthermore, professor and epidemiologist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, stated that Spain was using the system already in order to supplement case counts.
He went on to add that the idea of using sentinel is actually “reasonable” but, at the same time, it remains “unclear” when it will be appropriate to fully implement it – certainly not yet!