After many weeks of alarming and pessimistic messages, on Monday the Catalan health authorities gave reasons to hope. The indicator that marks the speed of transmission of the virus, the R number, has gone from 1.62 to 1.12 in recent days. The first objective is to lower it below 1, because this will mean that each infected person only infects one person or less. If the trend continues, in the next few days this reduction will spread to other indicators, such as the accumulated incidence.
But we must be clear that this has not yet happened. Cumulative incidence continues to rise and stands at 780 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, and the pressure on primary care, hospitals and ICUs continues to rise. The coming days and weeks will be very difficult and the health system will be tested once again, so there is no room for slackening off and we must be responsible and act with a sense of community.
The message that needs to be conveyed is that the measures that have been taken in recent weeks, especially traumatic for bars and restaurants, are beginning to have an effect. But westill have a very long way to go. Sacrifices, such as self-containment and the forced reduction of social interaction, reduce the circulation of the virus. We saw this in the first wave and we'll see it in this one, even though some studies suggest that covid-19 is now more contagious than it was in March.
Clearly, there are reasons for discontent with the political management of the pandemic, but the foremost priority right now has to be avoiding a healthcare collapse and saving as many lives as possible. Most epidemiologists agree that, until the vaccine arrives, the most effective measures are, apart from wearing a mask and hygiene, those that reduce mobility, because it is us who act as transmitters of the virus.
The authorities' declared aim is to avoid, as far as possible, a measure such as home confinement, which has catastrophic consequences for the economy, as we have seen, and also for the general emotional state of the population. But it is not clear that this goal can be achieved, especially after seeing what is happening in Britain, France, Italy or even Germany, where the second wave is pushing governments to take drastic measures at great speed.
In this scenario, it is best to be prepared for all situations and not fall into the trap of relaxation. It must be clear that if total confinement is avoided, it will be at the expense of great sacrifices and after having put a lot of stress on the health system. But it is clear to everyone that if total lockdown does come, it will be a collective failure: the management of the pandemic will have failed, but so will have society; no one will be able to say they weren't warned.