MADRID – The number of corona deaths and the number of people who tested positive is increasing. Spain awaits the peak of the sixth wave. Records are broken daily of the number of infections.
This is despite the progress of vaccination. More than 40 million people have already received at least one dose and 36% of the population has received a booster dose. Nevertheless, this state of affairs is overshadowed by the daily registration of tens of thousands of infections.
Spain, like the rest of the world, sees the curves rising to unexpected limits and that the end is not yet in sight. Or is it? The latest data shows that the rate at which cases are increasing in Spain has fallen sharply in recent days. The cumulative incidence continues to increase, but the rate of that increase is slowing and is gradually approaching zero according to RTVE.es.
The consequences of a few weeks of growth in the number of infections are tangible: the pressure on hospitals continues to increase, as does the number of deaths. Although everything indicates that the omicron variant develops a milder disease, the coronavirus continues to cause fatalities in Spain. That number is far removed from that during previous waves. The surrendered weeks are about 100 deaths per day. A chart showing the weekly evolution of deaths from Covid-19 shows the number has doubled in the past month.
Omicron, beginning and end?
Following the virus’s path in reverse, before the growing spike in deaths came the dangerous surge in hospitals. The warnings before and during the holidays have not prevented the worrying pressure from mounting after Christmas. Nationally, the occupancy rate of ICUs by COVID patients is almost 25%. A percentage that marks the very high-risk threshold in the corona traffic light for healthcare. The saturation of these units exceeds the level of the last waves in many regions. Catalonia, which had nearly half of its ICU beds occupied by COVID patients in the fifth wave, is now also the most affected region with pressures exceeding 40%.
Peak not yet reached
Although the situation in hospitals is complicated, the increase in the number of cases – the first pandemic indicator – does not seem to have reached its peak. The curve continues to exceed the maximum: last Wednesday the record number of reported daily infections was registered with 179,000. In addition, the cumulative incidence has exceeded 3,000 cases since Tuesday. That is three times more than at the highest point of the previous waves.
Other conditions with omicron
The arrival of omicron is changing the pandemic and the way the authorities are tracking it. The diagnostic capacity was sufficient to capture the unprecedented numbers of regions like Navarre or the Basque Country -more than 6,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days-, but the reading of the incidence data is different.
The consensus is that it is too early to consider the pandemic over. Yet this wave shows the number of cases does not have the same impact on hospitals, translated into admissions and deaths. This does not mean that the variant is harmless. A high incidence that lasts for a while eventually saturates hospitals and causes deaths. However, the impact has so far been minor.
Peak of the sixth wave could be close
Last week’s data shows us that the peak of this sixth wave could be close. The incidence continues to rise. However, the number of cases has already fallen for several days, which would indicate a slowdown in growth.
Treating Corona like the flu
In this context, Health Minister Carolina Darias confirmed the future implementation of a new system to monitor covid as if it were a flu. She wants to implement the new system once the sixth wave ends. Darias insisted that her ministry will launch this plan after realizing “with all caution” that the disease is “acquiring endemic features, at least in our environment”. Only time will tell if the decline in reported cases is the start of this path or just a delay caused by the holidays.