Spain and the Valencian Community today enter a new phase of the pandemic. In the most far-reaching change since the beginning of the crisis, from this Monday only people over 60 years of age, immunosuppressed people and those who work or frequently visit social health centers will be isolated and carried out diagnostic tests for covid. The rest, with few exceptions, will no longer have to undergo any evaluation and will be able to continue with their daily activities, even if they are infected and have mild symptoms. Of course, the “Surveillance and control strategy against covid after the acute phase of the pandemic” recommends that in these cases social interactions be reduced and the mask always be used, which continues to be mandatory indoors for the general population. and resist as ultimate pandemic symbol.
According to the latest update from the Ministry of Health, on Friday there were more than 20,000 active cases of covid in the autonomy. If the proportion of infections by age is maintained -those over 60 have accounted for around 15% of the total cases in C. Valenciana since the start of the health crisis-, around 17,000 Valencians with covid can do from almost normal life today without the need for tests.
Thus, from today the Valencian Community will focus its efforts on protecting the more than 1.3 million people over 60 years of age who live in the territory, to which must be added the group of vulnerable people and health workers. For the rest, some 3.7 million Valencians, the Public Health Commission defends in its document that a certain level of transmission must be “accepted”, alleging the “decrease in serious cases” in recent months.
Among people over 60 years of age, vaccination coverage is practically total in C. Valenciana. Of the 1,302,419 people who made up the target population to be immunized, according to data from the Ministry of Health, 1,247,482 people had received the booster dose as of March 25, the date of the last report issued by the Government.
This very high vaccination rate among the most vulnerable is one of the strengths that, according to experts, support this jump, considered the most important of all those that have been made so far. “It is reasonable to withdraw isolates and tests from the general population because we have many vaccinated, many who have passed it and a good part of the unvaccinated have been immunized naturally,” defends Salvador Peiró, epidemiologist and researcher at Fisabio, in statements to this Newspaper.
A radical change”
Peiró assures that this change in strategy that comes into force today is “without a doubt” the “most radical” turn that has been adopted in more than two years of the pandemic, but despite seeing it “justified” he expresses doubts as to how it will go to be implemented by the administrations, since it considers that the protection protocols are poorly developed and that the pedagogy to explain the change has been scarce.
“Whenever there are high rates at a general level, as is the case now, the vulnerable end up getting infected. It is something that is difficult not to happen again now, unless draconian measures are adopted such as closing residences again, which is something that is not going to be done, ”he explains to exemplify his doubts about how to shield those groups more prone to develop severe symptoms of covid.
In addition, he points out that the modification of the strategy will reduce the detection capacity of the health system without having thought of an alternative. “We entered this new phase by reducing the number of tests and not knowing how we are going to monitor transmission. The tests in residences will give clues, but we are going to lose detection capacity because there will be no data. Now we will have to wait for hospital admissions, which delays prediction and reaction by about 15 days », he warns.
But what generates the most doubts for Peiró is the scant communication that has been made from the ministry of a movement with which he understands that “you go from carrying the weight of the pandemic on health services to doing so on society.” Especially, because it comes at a time when the population’s adherence to compliance with prevention measures “has been considerably reduced” by pandemic fatigue.
For this reason, the expert affirms that what he has missed the most “is a strong communication campaign so that people who are in close contact, have symptoms or are positive always wear a mask and minimize social interaction, especially with vulnerable people. . You have to answer people’s doubts, because it’s okay to move on to a self-care phase, but that’s not the same as leaving people to do whatever they want. It requires informing and explaining, which is something that has not been done », he affirms.
Peiró does emphasize that the new strategy will serve to alleviate the workload to which primary care has been subjected during the health crisis. “By not having to test everyone with mild symptoms, they will be able to focus on the patients who need it most,” as well as get rid of all the paperwork related to diagnostic tests.
The document is reversible if, at a national level, bed occupancy exceeds 10% in the ICU (4.3% in C. Valenciana) or 5% on the ward (2.9%).