Complete lockdown or health system collapse by April 24, scientists tell Spain

60 professionals ask for "shutdown" of Catalonia, guaranteed supply of protective equipment, and access to data

Catalan researcher Oriol Mitjà, on February 11, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar)
Catalan researcher Oriol Mitjà, on February 11, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 27, 2020 11:42 AM

Some 60 scientists in Spain have put forward a petition urging the Spanish government to "move towards a complete lockdown" in order to prevent a collapse of the health system. 

Led by the Catalan specialist in infectious diseases, Oriol Mitjà, the professionals warn of the system's "saturation" by April 24 if the emergency measures are not reinforced. Anyone can adhere to the requests in this website.

Specifically, in an article published in 'The Lancet' medical journal, the doctors ask for a total lockdown in areas such as Catalonia, and also for an interruption of land, sea and air transport. 

What's more, they ask for improvements in the supply of protective equipment, call for the development of mobile apps, and ask the Spanish government for access to data on the outbreak.

In parallel Oriol Mitjà is leading an innovative clinical trial to treat coronavirus. He is a well-known expert on poverty-related infectious diseases, after having spent part of the past ten years in Papua New Guinea, to help the local community fight yaws and to do research to eradicate it.

The statement follows another one made public few days ago in which some 70 scientists including Bonaventura Clotet made similar requests. 

"More drastic measures"

"We would like to express our concern about the limited capacity of actions taken by the Spanish Government to successfully control the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak," reads the statement published in 'The Lancet.'

"We urge the Spanish Government to implement, as swiftly as possible, more drastic measures to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the Spanish population."

One of the reasons they give is the number of elderly people in the country. "The foreseen collapse of the health system, along with the age distribution of the Spanish population (ie, 18% of people aged over 65), suggests a potentially high mortality rate," they say.

Lockdown of Catalonia

Mitjà and the 60 other scientists ask for "regional categories" to be established within Spain, with areas with over 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants subject to "a complete shutdown" and a "citizen lockdown, except for essential services, such as hospitals, health care, and research centers."

They also believe that Catalonia, the Madrid region, and five others should be included in this category. Catalonia is the sixth territory in Spain in the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants (115). 

The Catalan government has asked the cabinet in Madrid to accept a total lockdown of Catalonia – something that has been repeatedly denied by Pedro Sánchez's ministers.

Protective equipment

The experts, which also include Àlex Arenas, Xavier Rodó, Aurelio Tobias, Joe Brew, and José M Benlloch, also show concern for the continued supply of protective equipment. 

"There is an urgent need to establish a purchasing and supply channel for personal protective equipment, which is currently insufficient for health personnel who are highly exposed to and prone to contagion," they say.

Self-reporting app

Mitjà and his colleagues also call for the implementation of apps such as Stop Covid-19 Cat, launched by the Catalan health department. 

They specifically ask for such tools "for self-reporting of suspected COVID-19 symptoms as well as apps to support contact tracing efforts." 

Access to data

"Importantly, we beg the Spanish Government to facilitate the access of the scientific community to outbreak data, thus providing artificial intelligence support in simulation and modelling, and to create core support groups that coordinate a comprehensive, objective, and transparent scientific response," the researches also demand from the Sánchez executive.