WHO and EMA disagree on Spain’s view equating Covid to flu

by Lorraine Williamson
WHO and EMA disagree on Covid surveillance

MADRID – The EMA and WHO disagrees with Spain’s vision to treat Covid-19 as flu. Spanish experts also warn that it is too early and dangerous to see Covid-19 and ordinary influenza as equals. 

Earlier this week Spain announced to introduce a new surveillance system for Covid-19. This system will be similar to the ones used for the flu. A network of health centres and hospitals has to analyse how the virus is spreading, without counting each case. The Spanish government plans to implement this system once the sixth wave of Covid is over. 

Too early to talk about endemic phase 

While Spain is discussing this vision within the government, both the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are putting a brake on the Spanish Prime Minister’s plans. Although the Omicron variant seems milder, the WHO predicts hundreds of millions of infections in Europe in the next six months. Moreover, the organisation believes that Covid-19 is far from being an endemic disease. According to the EMA and the WHO, Spain’s new strategy is still too premature. 

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Covid-19 is smarter and meaner than regular flu 

Experts also disagree to equate Covid-19 with the common flu. There are similar characteristics, such as an infection in the respiratory tract and how the virus is transmitted. However, Covid-19 is still much more dangerous than the flu. The coronavirus is spreading smarter and is causing more serious lung infections in people under the age of 50. The flu is also seasonal, whereas, that does not apply to Covid-19 as far as is known until now. “The virus has caused too many surprises, therefore it is too early to see the two as equals,” said a microbiologist at the Complutense University of Madrid. 

Spain wants to start a conversation in Europe about new parameters 

Despite the position of the WHO and EMA, Health Minister Darias indicates she wants to start a conversation with her European colleagues on a new way of monitoring the health crisis. 

Spain wants some sort of warning system similar to what some regions use to monitor the flu. According to Spain, there must be a joint vision in Europe on how to determine the presence of the virus and how to respond to this from the healthcare sector. This would end the daily statistics of the number of infections, hospitalisations and, deaths. 

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