Pedro Sánchez. / EFE

Spain’s PM is warned ‘the risk is very high’ ahead of emergency meeting of regional presidents

A 15-page health department coronavirus report, prepared on Tuesday, recommends limiting Christmas social gatherings, company meals and parties and public events in which crowds may gather, as well as the ‘special protection of vulnerable people’

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO

Ministry of Health experts have handed Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, a fifteen-page coronavirus status report ahead of the emergency meeting of the country’s regional presidents this Wednesday, 22 December. The last meeting with regional presidents was on 30 July in Salamanca.

The Rapid Risk Assessment document, prepared by the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), is blunt, warning "The risk of spread of the Omicron variant in Spain is considered very high.”

Fernando Simón's team of coronavirus experts, in a document to which SUR has had access, do not beat around the bush because "in recent weeks an exponential growth of Omicron has been observed through specific PCR screening and by sequencing random samples."

Multiplied by 10

So much so that, according to the report, at the end of week 49 (December 6 to 12), the new variant accounted for 47% of "national sequences carried out. Screening indicates that there is a rapid replacement of the variant Delta by Omicron”, explained the CCAES, which revealed that between 28 November and 12 December, the number of Omicron cases at the national level multiplied by 10. In the last week Omicron has gone from 3.4% prevalence to 47%, claims the document.

The health experts emphasised that "it is considered very likely that the vaccine will continue to protect against serious episodes of Covid", but went on to warn, "In a context of high transmissibility, the pronounced increase in the total number of cases could lead to an increase in the number of hospitalisations, especially in the absence of non-pharmacological control measures, with the consequent risk of saturation of health systems."

Ministry officials said the "vaccines are effective, in general, to avoid the worst cases of Covid-19", but they are very concerned about "the decrease in effectiveness against symptomatic infection and the increase in the probability of reinfection." Circumstances that "will facilitate the increase in cases, so the impact on the population (apart from the spread of the virus itself) are also considered very high."

Recommendations

With the developing situation the recommendations proposed by the experts to the prime minister and his team with a view to Christmas are, obviously, those of increasing restrictions.

"During the Christmas holidays it is recommended to limit social gatherings with family and friends, company meals and parties and public events in which large crowds may gather, as well as consider the special protection of vulnerable people," said the document.

Self-diagnostic tests

“The transmission control measures associated must be strictly respected in all areas,” stressed the CCAES, which is open, in the current situation, to the public themselves making decisions based on coronavirus tests available from pharmacies.

"Sometimes, the use of self-diagnostic tests before family or social gatherings can be of use, which can help detect some positive cases and reduce risks," said the health officials, who have previously never been too much in favour of this type of test.