Coronavirus infections have been on the rise in Spain since the beginning of June, driven by two subspecies of the Omicron variant making their way, BA.4 and BA.5, apparently more contagious than the previous ones , but the disease is also serious due to low capacity. This Friday, the accumulated incidence among people over the age of 60 (the only among whom it continues to be measured) rose 102 points over 14 days to 755 diagnoses per 100,000 residents. This is already having a clear impact on hospitals: today there are 8,205 patients in the ward (1,417 more than a week ago) and 388 in ICU, an increase not so pronounced compared to last Friday (340). These units are in the lowest occupancy levels since the pandemic began.
The waves of covid are becoming less clear. Since the end of the sixth in January, cases began to rise again during April, up from 800 cases per 100,000 residents for most of May. They then returned to 578 (measured on 10 June) to begin climbing again. Depending on how you look at it, it can be considered part of the seventh or eighth wave. There are also those who think they are oscillations within a higher level of contagion.
The landscape is still, for good, very different from what it was before vaccines. Epidemiologists advise that the pressure on hospitals seen in other waves will not return: at this time, the percentage of COVID patients in wards is 6.6% and in ICUs 4.3%. But they warn: We are on the doorstep of the summer holidays, incomes will continue to rise and there will be fewer employees to serve them.
Primary care, mainly affected in the sixth wave, is already noticing this. Vicente Baos, a family physician in the Sierra de Madrid, the community with the highest incidence (1,313 cases per 100,000 residents), assures that consultations are filling up with COVID patients. “The common symptoms are body aches, headache and asthenia in the beginning. Variable mucus in the upper tract, not very clear, very noticeable dry mouth, more than pain. Digestive symptoms with short cough nausea and more prolonged diarrhea. The typical duration is four clear days and then an improvement is seen, although there are some patients with prolonged asthenia. [En general] A week is a clear improvement. The state of smell and taste has disappeared and bronchitis is very uncommon”, he explains.
For Rafael M. Orti Lucas, president of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene, we are “walking the eighth wave, siled by a change in the second strategy.” He refers to the one in May, when the Ministry of Health and the Autonomous Communities decided not to indicate tests for each suspected case of covid in healthy people under the age of 60 and, therefore, to omit the exhaustive count. was given till was taken.
“BA.4 and BA.5 do their job. after Galicia [tercera comunidad con más incidencia, por detrás de Canarias] And Madrid will reach out to the rest of the communities. Within the natural evolution of the virus, with alleviating symptoms, but with greater effect in those who had not yet passed the disease. Hospitals won’t reach past levels, but that can be worrying, because that’s when the flu flares up,” Orti Lucas says.
Antoine Trilla, professor of public health at the University of Barcelona, explains that as cases increase, hospitalizations also increase, often of advanced age and with underlying pathology. “They usually do well with treatment and have fewer days of hospitalization” [que en anteriores olas], Some, very few, end up in the ICU. The problem is a shortage of healthcare workers, especially in nursing. There are a lot of health related activities and we have people who are very tired and sick because of Covid,” he says.
Trilla sees the increase in cases as inevitable with the expansion of new sub-sections: “I don’t think this will translate into a new wave, perhaps it will be somewhat less intense, but continuous. In Portugal we have BA Have seen 20% less hospitalization with .4 and BA.5; it doesn’t seem like it’s going to have a huge social impact now, but it can be difficult for the health system to manage.
Portugal is emerging from a wave caused by these omicron variants last week, which pushed the infection rate to a peak of 3,600 per 100,000 inhabitants, reports terixa constanella, However, these figures have not translated into greater health-care pressure, as was the case between December 2020 and January 2021, when the country saw its first major explosion of infections. Already in the next wave, a year later, infections increased, but vaccines significantly reduced the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
In the current wave that began in May, the fatal January 2021 infectious rate has once again been exceeded, although the impact on hospitals is minimal. Admissions in both the ward and the ICU have increased, but they are far from the pressure they faced before the population was vaccinated. Between 7 and 13 June, the latest available figures were 1,896 hospitalizations, of whom 98 were in ICUs, far below the figure the country reached in the first great wave, when there were 3,000 hospitalizations and half a thousand hospitalized. intensive care.
Oscar Zuriaga of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology believes something similar will happen in Spain: a rise in cases that won’t translate into enormous pressure on hospital care. “But you should be aware that the pandemic (and transmission) is not over. And that as long as the virus continues to spread, we will have a ratio of severe cases and deaths,” he explains.