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Public health secretary warns of possible Covid-19 third wave in January

As transmission rate nears 1 again, authorities appeal to the population’s  "common sense" when celebrating Christmas

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07 December 2020 11:30 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Catalonia's public health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon, has warned of a possible Covid-19 third wave in January. 

In an interview with the TV public broadcaster TV3 on Saturday evening, he said that his department has some "mathematical models", which estimate an increase in the number of hospitalizations at Christmas and a third wave in the first weeks of 2021 – at the moment, the figures are stable, but at dangerous levels. 

In order to avoid another emergency situation, he called on the public to use "common sense" when celebrating Christmas with their families. 

'Inconsistencies' of Christmas exceptions

Argimon also admitted some "inconsistencies" between the cautious approach taken to reopening social life - the move to phase 2 of the de-escalation plan, expected for this Monday, was delayed – and the exceptions allowed for the key Christmas days. 

The current regulations provide that social gatherings cannot surpass six people, curfew begins at 10pm and mobility is restricted to a municipality-level at the weekend, which will be upgraded to a county-level probably the week before Christmas, when Catalonia is expected to progress to phase 2. 

In parallel, on December 24, 25, 31, January 1, 5 and 6, exceptions will be in place to enable residents to enjoy family meals, so regardless of the phase 2, travelling across Catalonia and to other territories in Spain will be allowed to meet relatives. 

As well as this, curfew will be extended to 1.30am on December 24 and 31, and until 11pm on January 5, the eve of Three Kings Day. 

Argimon was skeptical that the use of antigen tests would be useful to increase the number of people at family meals – one of Catalonia's most well-known epidemiologists, Oriol Mitjà, also said that such rapid tests cannot be used with that aim. 

As Barcelona's Hospital Clínic epidemiologist Anna Llupià told Catalan News some weeks ago, in the case of antigen tests "you can rely more or less on its positives but you cannot rely on its negatives."

Covid-19 situation no longer improving

The current situation of the pandemic is no longer improving – one week ago, the downwards trend shifted to a slightly upwards one, just a few days after social life reopened

Yet, in the past few days, the figures have stabilized: the transmission rate, also known as the R number, stands at 0.99 for a second day in a row as of December 7. 

If the R number goes above 1 that is an indication that every positive case, on average, is spreading the virus to more than one person.

The outbreak risk fell from 'very high' to 'high' last week, then rose again and is now slightly dropping down to 200 (as of December 7), the threshold between both categories. 

The outbreak risk, calculated by multiplying the average spread of the virus over the past seven days by the cumulative incidence over the past two weeks, is considered to be low at 30, moderate at 70, high at 100 and very high at 200.

The number of hospitalized people due to Covid-19 and those in ICUs are now much lower than in the peak of the second wave, at 1,590 and 395 as of December 7. 

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  • Catalan public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon on September 3, 2020 (by Miquel Codolar)

  • Catalan public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon on September 3, 2020 (by Miquel Codolar)

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