This week, Israel has raised the mandatory to wear a mask in open spaces. The good vaccination data for Covid-19, with more than half of the population already immunized with the complete guideline, has made it possible to see images in the streets that evoke a pre-Covid era that seems so far away in time: people’s smiles are no longer covered.

The efficacy demonstrated by the vaccines (those of Pfizer and Moderna, mainly) has thrown this country into optimism, the most advanced in the world in terms of vaccination rate: 57.3% of its inhabitants are vaccinated, more than double that of next on the list, the United States.

Since the end of January, when the first people who received the serum began to develop immunity, to date, the drop in the rate of infections there has been more than remarkable, going from exceeding 7,000 daily cases to taking all of April below 50.

In Spain, people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 barely reach 8%, according to the latest report on the vaccination campaign of the Ministry of Health. It seems distant the day when we can enjoy walks without a mask through the main streets of the city, but, in reality, we are closer than it seems if we follow the example of Israel.

A situation of “almost normality”

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, announced the forecast of the vaccinated population in the coming months, maintaining the optimism that, by the end of August, 70% of the Spanish population will be immunized. In the week of July 19, he pointed out, 25 million people would have been vaccinated; that is, a little more than half of the 47 million who live in Spain.

With these figures, some specialists in Public Health are optimistic and see the disappearance of the mask as a good goal for this moment. Of course, only in outdoor spaces. What Rafael Ortí, president of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene, who considers that “with 50% of those vaccinated, plus another 10-15% of the immune population due to having passed the disease, we would be almost in a normal situation”.

Doctors see this possibility feasible but do not want to raise the bells too soon. “This does not mean that you have to lower your guard, but to continue with other measures (such as social distance).”

The same opinion is shared by the epidemiologist Jose Jonay Ojeda, which makes the release of masks subject to the rate of vaccination “and how it translates into the main indicators of the pandemic: first, that it has an effect on healthcare pressure (admissions, occupied ICU beds and deaths) and, subsequently, on the number of infections “.

Ojeda is also optimistic because the trend of the fourth wave of coronavirus “is more favorable than we expected” but he does not dare to predict the impact of vaccination on the evolution of the pandemic with current data. “We will have to arrive at a figure similar to that of Israel and objectify, with epidemiological studies, what it is translating into in our country.”

No coffee for everyone

Regarding the indicators, Rafael Ortí emphasizes that the same standard cannot be used in “the 355 municipalities of the Valencian Community that currently have zero cases of Covid” and in areas where the accumulated incidence (the number of infections for each 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks) exceeds 400.

“To go to the beach, the countryside or a very busy street, I don’t see any inconvenience. [a ir sin mascarilla]. In places where there is no transmission, why not do it? The level of local incidence must be taken into account “.

According to data from the Carlos III Health Institute as of April 22, there are four provinces with an incidence of less than 50: Albacete, Alicante, Valencia and the Balearic Islands. In contrast, neighboring provinces such as Granada and Jaén exceed 300 cases. The Basque Country, Navarra or Madrid also do it, as do Lleida and Guadalajara.

Tourism? Yes, but controlled

The lifting of the masks is important especially in the most touristy provinces, since it would be an incentive for the summer season. But Ortí warns that “the arrival of foreign tourism should not be massive and controlled by vaccination or PCR,” as well as keeping track of new cases that occur.

The specialists consulted by EL ESPAÑOL emphasize that, in no case, the permissiveness with the masks reaches the interiors and that, in places with a large influx of people such as open-air concerts, it should be maintained if social distance is not maintained.

Some go even further. “I am concerned about what has happened in Chile,” he admits. Joan Carles March, professor and co-director of the Andalusian School of Public Health. “It is a country that has vaccinated much faster than any other Latin American country and has ended up having a very high cumulative incidence because people thought that, since there were many vaccinated, they could be without a mask.”

More than 40% of Chileans have at least one dose of the vaccine administered. In the last two months (Chile has been vaccinating since the beginning of February), the number of daily infections in the Andean country has been increasing rapidly, reaching the peak on April 14, with 7,320 cases.

The great benefits of the mask

However, March points out that it is feasible to gradually eliminate the mask, although its use throughout this time has brought “great benefits” beyond Covid-19, “linked to the decrease in influenza and associated infections in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease “.

Indeed, the flu cases reported this season have been laughable: compared to 619,000 in winter 2020, in 2021 only 12. In addition, pulmonologists recognize that the attacks of asthmatic patients have decreased in the last year.

For this reason, the professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health points out that the mask has come to stay … in certain cases. “It will be a very useful tool in winter and in poorly ventilated interiors, where vulnerable people can carry it to avoid the risk of infection.”

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