Covid: Spain braced for 'brutal but fast' sixth wave as Omicron savages Europe

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The wave which has infected a large number of people in a short span of time is considered to be “brutal but fast” by the top epidemiologists who have been closely monitoring the movement of the infection. Oscar Zurriaga, vice-president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, told ABC: “We all expect this wave to be brutal but fast.”

The top health expert predicts that the ‘height’ of the curve of infected people will be much higher than so far, but with a short peak and a lower rate of admissions for each infection.

However, hospital and ICU occupancies will not fall as quickly as new cases are expected to do.

This Monday, the cumulative incidence reached 1,206 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the first time in the entire pandemic, after adding more than 214,000 new cases since Thursday.

A year after the start of the vaccination campaign, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, admitted that in the “coming weeks” we will see “high” numbers in infections, and most regions predict that the epidemic curve will be at high thresholds at least until mid-January.

The data shows that since last Thursday, those admitted to the ward have risen by one percentage point, occupying 7.69 percent of hospital beds, while in the ICU the increase is two points, bringing the figure to 18.26 percent occupancy.

Julián Domínguez, spokesman for the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Health Management (SEMPSPGS) said that the problems generated by this wave will be different from those of previous waves.

The lethality of the disease and the severity of those infected has dropped “a lot”, she said.

The death rate in summer was 1.5 percent in Spain, which has now moved at 0.2-0.1 percent.

The number of critically ill patients, who previously accounted for 0.7 percent of those infected, now stands at 0.2 percent.

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The difficulty, says Domínguez, is that today, with an ultra-contagious variant and infections skyrocketing, there are strategies such as the mandatory ten-day quarantine for all positive cases that make no sense.

In fact, the expert is in favour of reducing quarantine for positive cases, currently set at 10 days, to between seven and eight days, especially for those infected without symptoms or if these last only a few days, as studies suggest that with these margins they will no longer be contagious.

A decision that England has already taken, reducing it to one week in the face of an unprecedented number of infected people that was leading the country to a “de facto” lockdown, paralysing life and generating problems to fill the jobs of workers isolated for ten days because they had been infected.

Virologist Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, head of emerging pathogens at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said: “The main problem is going to be the number of infections.”

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Data collated by the Spanish Society of Immunology suggests that the Wuhan strain had a transmissibility index of between 2.5 and 3 points; it rose to 6 with the Delta variant and now the first data from Omicron suggest it reaches 10.

Mr Sastre said: “It is easy for many healthcare workers to be infected by Omicron.

“They will have to quarantine themselves and, if we lose health workers, there is a stronger pressure on the health system.”

Meanwhile, Madrid health authorities believe that the peak of the sixth wave of infections will arrive next week.

Although infections are increasing exponentially, their translation into hospitalisations has nothing to do with previous waves.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega



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