On the day the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 dropped below 50, heavenly bells seemed to ring. After many, many months, Spain was at low risk for Covid and the road to the end of the pandemic was already looking much less blurry. Now it remains to go through it.
The large numbers of contagions that we have experienced in the last year make the current figures look almost like a glimmer of the disease, but there is something fundamental that tells us that this is not over: people keep dying from Covid every day.
In the last week, 87 people have died from the disease, more than 11 each day. These are undoubtedly low figures compared to what we have experienced, but they make us see that the pandemic is still alive and continues to hurt.
“There are still deaths and there will continue to be as long as there are cases,” he says. Julian Dominguez, spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene. “But it is true that the percentage has varied with respect to the previous epidemic waves.”
Indeed, this has been changing over time. According to data provided by the Carlos III Health Institute, fatality in those under 50 years of age has been very low throughout the pandemic (although it should not be forgotten that there have been deaths in all age groups).
As you go up in the ages you see the differences between the successive waves: yes mortality in the second and third waves exceeded 16% of those over 80 years infected, in the fourth – the first with a good part of the population of that age vaccinated – it was already somewhat above 10%, and in the fifth it fell below that threshold.
In the case of people between 70 and 79 years old, mortality up to the fifth wave, the only one in which the distribution of vaccines had widely reached this group, was around 5% of those infected, being below 3% in the last period analyzed.
This figure is lower than the fatality calculation estimated as a result of the seroprevalence study carried out by the institute itself in May last year: 4.1% in those over 70 years of age. This drop is notable since the calculation has been made on the estimate of total cases, including asymptomatic ones. That is the vaccines have worked and very well.
Four million unvaccinated
The figures offered daily by the Ministry of Health, based on the cases reported, establish a global fatality throughout the pandemic of 1.7% (no difference in age ranges). This Thursday a total of 1,932 cases have been registered. In a simple but indicative calculation, it implies that some 33 of these people will end up dying.
Let’s take another indicator to exemplify: the number of hospitalized patients at this very moment in all of Spain. They are, specifically, 1,854. The Carlos III data establishes a 17.8% fatality in hospitalized (although this has dropped in the fifth wave). That is, 330 of them would die.
It should be borne in mind that, for a year now, the ministry has not officially reported daily deaths but throughout the week. The justification was that it gave a more accurate picture of the evolution of the pandemic, although it is likely that the reason is that the delays in the notification of deaths made this an unreliable indicator. Still, at the end of the fourth wave, it was not unusual for some communities to report zero deaths on any given day.
“The lethality will go down progressively but 20% of the Spanish population remains unvaccinated“Domínguez comments. Of them, there are about 4 million who are within the indicated age to receive the injection but have not even ‘tasted’ a puncture. Those are the ones that worry the preventivist.
“This group is dangerous, in the sense that they can become infected and transmit Covid” to other individuals with immunosenescence or immunosuppression, that is, their defenses have lowered due to age despite being vaccinated or because they have some condition that directly affects or indirectly, to your immune system. It is precisely for these groups that the administration of an additional dose of the anti-Covid vaccines has been approved.
Goodbye to the Covid waves
The question that remains is: how long will we continue to see that constant flow of deaths, no matter how few, and that it becomes something sporadic? Almost all experts predicted a sixth wave of coronavirus infections for late September or early October, but so far it has not occurred, so the number is not expected to increase in the short term. But that does not mean that, with waves or without waves (as the fifth warned us about the vaccine), there will no longer be people with the worst prognosis.
“Even in mild illnesses there is a fatality rate,” says Domínguez. “In endemic-epidemic periods, without a clear wave but with localized outbreaks, there will continue to be cases of deaths from Covid.” And remember: “Covid is not over, a high percentage of people remain unvaccinated and we will continue to have cases. “
However, he does not see far the day when zero deaths will be reached “if vaccination ceases to be stagnant and if individual preventive measures are maintained.” When the accumulated incidence is so low “that income is no longer produced, something that is behind the incidence”, it will be possible to glimpse.
However, we will have to wait for something more. Although he prefers not to give dates, the spokesman for the Spanish health workers considers that entering a period of new normality (incidence below 25) “We will have to wait between two and four weeks for critically ill or ICU patients to heal or die“That will be the turning point to get out of the alley of the pandemic.
A few days ago, the Public Health experts consulted by EL ESPAÑOL estimated the end of the year as the date on which, if the Christmas holidays allow it, we can reach the new normal. Let’s hope that the Covid does not exceed the January slope.