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Covid research group sees ‘clear downward trend’ in latest data

Health minister does not believe new Omicron variants will change pandemic management plans

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31 January 2022 10:23 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

One of Catalonia’s top pandemic researchers says there is a "clear downward trend" in Covid-19 cases, leading him to predict that the strain on hospitals and medical centers will ease in the spring. 

Enric Álvarez of the BIOCOMSC research group of the university UPC says that data from the primary care centers over the weekend indicated a positive turn, and that “everything seems to indicate that last weekend [transmissions] started to go significantly down," he explained on Catalunya Ràdio. 

According to him, the decline is especially important in children and young people, age groups with a higher incidence rate due to extra testing being done in schools. Alvarez said that in the summer it could even be possible to remove the use of masks indoors.

Alvarez highlighted the high immunization of the population, either by vaccination or by having recovered from the virus. In this sense, he stressed that the real figures are much higher, because right now there is a large population over the age of 20 that has been infected without realising it.

As for primary care, he acknowledged that it can always be a mystery, as a new subvariant can keep cases high. "But the chances of a very bad situation in hospitals are very low," he said.

On Friday, January 28, Catalonia removed the mandatory use of Covid passports to enter establishments such as bars, restaurants, and cultural centers. 

New variants unlikely to alter plans

Health Minister Josep Maria Argimon believes the new Omicron subvariant will not alter plans to change pandemic management in the spring if the cases are mild. 

In an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN), he argues that managing the pandemic as it has been done until now is “not sustainable" for primary care nor good from a public health standpoint. 

"We also run the risk of leaving many things behind that are as important or more important, such as recovering from diagnoses. We need to change our strategy, the virus has changed," he said. 

Diagnoses in primary care of some common illnesses fell by up to 50% during to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a study in September from the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), based at Barcelona's Hospital Clínic.

Even though two cases of the new Omicron subvariant (also known as 'sigilous omicron') have been confirmed in Catalonia and in some 40 countries, Argimon still believes there’s no reason to change the strategy in managing Covid-19 in the spring. “Not in principle, we'll have to monitor it like everything else," he said.

Argimon previously announced that health authorities intend to stop counting all Covid-19 cases from April if most of them are mild.

The health department will, if this plan moves forward, estimate the incidence rate by collecting samples from people at different points across Catalonia instead.

Argimon pointed out that the new variant seems to be even more transmissible than the original Omicron and admits this can lead to more complications in everyday life. However, "according to the first indications, it is not more serious," he says. 

Of course, Argimon adds that the coronavirus has given us "many lessons" and "twists" from the beginning, and warns we cannot know for certain how the pandemic will develop in the future.

Latest pandemic data

The latest Covid-19 data show that the 14-day incidence rate has been dropping for the past few days, indicating that Catalonia has just passed the peak of the sixth wave. 

This figure stood at 6,048 on January 26 and the data released on Monday places the metric at 5,794 infections per 100,000 people across Catalonia over the last two weeks.

The outbreak risk has also significantly dropped off, although remains very high. From a peak of 6,741 seen on January 25, it has since fallen to 4,965. 

Catalonia has recorded 870,393 new cases in the past month alone, and some 1,132,966 since November 30, around the time the latest wave began. This represents 52% of all of the cases seen in the territory (2,176,069) since the pandemic began. 

The latest data released on January 31, 2022, representing the figures for the previous day, shows that there are currently more patients hospitalized with the virus than ever before: 3,042. 

Despite this, patients requiring intensive care has been dropping for the past number of days. The peak of ICU admissions was 513, seen on January 24, but now the figure stands at 463.

Overall number of Covid-related deaths (in hospitals and total)

Number of people diagnosed per day 

Hospitalized patients and ICU patients from July 29, 2020

Number of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 deaths per day (at hospitals until May 19, 2020, hospitals and other health centers from May 20, 2020, and elsewhere since August 5, 2020)

Outbreak risk (over 100 is high) and transmission rate (over 1 concerns authorities)

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Number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in last 14 days

Percentage of population vaccinated 

 
Number of people given first and third doses and fully immunized

 
New vaccinations per day 
 

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Covid-19 vaccination progress in top priority groups

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