Catalonia has surpassed the peak of coronavirus infections in the second wave, as announced this Friday by the Department of Health. "This is the result of the early application of some very hard and forceful, but effective measures to control the growth of infections, but we must remember that the healthcare system is still under high pressure, which affects the sustainability of the regular activities of our public health centers," said Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol.
Hospitals are still dealing with too many admissions, both Covid and non-Covid. Despite the fact that we are seeing a certain slowdown in the rate of hospitalisations, the health department is cautious, since patients' recovery is slow and admissions are accumulating. "The effect of the measures is premature," Ramentol warned. For now, the latest public data report 2,725 people currently in hospital, 45 fewer than on Thursday, and 471 patients in intensive care beds, 14 fewer.
For this reason, the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut) has decided to temporarily integrate private clinics into the public network, as it did in the first wave. The aim is to increase hospital capacity to 1,100 beds for critical patients and to anticipate the demand for covid-19 cases. "We are in a similar scenario to that of the first wave and we know that the pressure on care will continue to increase in the coming weeks," said Ramentol.
Starting tomorrow, Saturday, public data will include private beds that care for critical coronavirus patients. Currently, there are 542 people with covid-19 admitted to ICU beds throughout Catalonia, 70 of which are in private health care beds, which can provide a total of approximately 200. This means that the virus occupies 87% of the entire network of critical patients available in the country. Ramentol has indicated that the instruction is very similar to that approved during the first wave, when the integration was a "success".
The coordinator of the Covid monitoring unit, Jacobo Mendioroz, explained that this timid improvement is due to the measures deployed two weeks ago and that the next few days and weeks will begin to see the additional effect of the remaining restrictions. "For example, reducing the reproduction rate even more, which is what interests us," said the epidemiologist.
106 new deaths
But although some epidemiological indicators are evolving favourably, the second wave is still being experienced intensely throughout Catalonia. After weeks of heavy transmission and increased hospital pressure, the harshest consequence of the epidemic is once again coming to light: we are already seeing an increase in the number of deaths. Only this Friday, 106 new deaths have been reported by Catalan funeral homes, most of them (95) between November 3rd and 4th. In nine months, Covid-19 has caused 14,482 deaths, 1,098 in the last month.
Deaths caused by the virus (aggregate data for the last seven days)
The path to stabilisation of the epidemic is very slow despite restrictions on mobility and social interaction. The rate of infection (R), or the speed of spread of the virus, is progressively falling below 1: it now stands at 0.94 and this means that 94 out of every 100 infections are still generated. But at this point, 818 infections per 100,000 inhabitants are being diagnosed, a figure that is 16 times higher than what experts consider to be sufficiently solid to control the transmission of the virus (50). In addition, EPG, which anticipates possible sudden growth within fourteen days, is decreasing (731) but is far from the threshold considered safe (100).
Of the three indicators that the government has set as priorities for controlling the curve and starting to consider relaxing restrictions, only one has been achieved in a weakly consolidated way: bringing the R below 1. The other two - reducing the number of daily infections to a thousand and reducing the pressure on intensive care units, with a maximum of 300 patients admitted - are far from being achieved.
On Tuesday, the Health Department notified 4,796 new infections confirmed by PCR or antigen test, four times more than the target set by the authorities. The percentage of tests coming back positive, however, is decreasing: currently 11.4% of the test results are positive, when a week ago this indicator shot up to 13.4%.
In the homes of elderly people, a very vulnerable area that the health authorities prioritise in the control of the epidemic due to the dramatic consequences experienced in the first wave, there are 1 ,293 cases. A total of 164 homes (15.5% of the total) have registered some cases this week.