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Catalonia ‘not any longer’ top of European rankings in transmissions

UPC researcher says summer outbreaks helped authorities realize weaknesses, unlike other countries

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08 November 2020 12:21 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

A working group in Catalonia’s Polytechnic University (UPC), BIOCOMSC, is issuing three comprehensive reports every week on the latest Covid-19 data in Europe.

They have been comparing equivalent variables across several countries and regions since March, and Catalan News talked to one of the researchers in the group, Enric Álvarez.

Listen to this interview on episode two of Filling the Sink, the new podcast from Catalan News.

How is the pandemic progressing in Catalonia now?

At the minute the situation is improving in a very narrow sense. The growth rate of the epidemic was very high during the last weeks, [the transmission rate] was close to 1.4-1.5 and since the measures have been taken, now that we have a picture of what happened one week after they were taken, we've seen the rate drop to 1.1 [as of Nov 5, 0.95]. But it's still not under control and the incidence is very large, so the problems in hospitals are going to continue for some days, one week, two weeks at least, until it improves.

Do you think the second wave of Covid-19 has been different here compared to the rest of Europe?

In a sense Catalonia was different because, together with Spain, [the pandemic] rose first in summer and then was kept under control after the first rise. So we really noticed and felt more than others that our system of tracking cases was not ready, while the numbers that we're seeing in the Netherlands, in France show exactly the same picture, not being ready - but without having had ‘training’ before winter, so now the Netherlands, France, Belgium and other countries are facing that they really didn't have the system ready while in Catalonia and in Aragon and part of Spain we realized that in July, in June. So there's been some kind of catch up, and what's happening now is the wave has arrived in France, in the countries that opened earlier and the numbers are staggering. The situation right now in France, or in Czechia, or even in the Netherlands, they are really, really worrisome.

  • "The problems in hospitals are going to continue for some days, one week, two weeks at least, until it improves

    Enric Álvarez · BIOCOMSC

Is Catalonia still top of the rankings in terms of number of transmissions? 

Not any longer. I mean the situation in Slovakia and Czech Republic, France and the Netherlands is awful, it's way worse than Catalonia. We are on top, but we're not 'top top' any more. The key question is why northeastern Spain was the first to trigger the cases and that's a very deep question but the fact is that after the summer, when the winter came, or at least winter-type weather and behavior and mobility, cases rose very strongly in countries that [eased measures] at the same time, and it rose a little bit later, so Italy is just behind because they kept measures for longer. And the countries that had a larger system of vigilance are also going a little bit behind, but still it's increasing. Very few countries right now have a system where they can control the epidemics without taking measures (meaning distance measures, social measures, legal measures), not only trying to cut the infection chains.  

So, our outbreak risk is not the highest in Europe anymore?  

No. Here the EPG [oubtreak risk] is 800, while in southern Czech Republic it is around 2,000 - more than double. The health care system has completely collapsed in southeast Czech Republic. It's very bad in Holland, at 1,000 (not the Netherlands, but the Holland area). Switzerland, Slovakia, and in France and also in the UK have EPGs of around 1,000, which is higher than in Catalonia right now. Right now we're on a decreasing tendency - we are not by far the worst.

 

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  • UPC researcher Enric Álvarez says summer outbreaks helped authorities realize weaknesses, unlike other countries

  • UPC researcher Enric Álvarez says summer outbreaks helped authorities realize weaknesses, unlike other countries