You have free access to all the articles of the Observer for being our subscriber.
The Ómicron variant came to change the rules of the Covid-19 pandemic game. With apparently milder disease despite high transmissibility, several countries are reducing the number of days of isolation and discarding national confinements. Spain wants to go one step further, transitioning the way health authorities record and report SARS-CoV-2 cases to treating them like the flu.
The new system, which does not yet have a specific date to be implemented, will change what has been modus operandi since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of the measures go through the end of accounting of daily cases and still the end of realization test at the slightest symptom or a risk contact, informs El País.
Called “sentinel”, the new system consists of choosing a group of doctors, that, in collaboration with hospitals, proceed to create a statistically significant sample, which allows calculating the transmission of Covid-19 in the community, as well as offering the possibility of detecting whether the cases are severe or mild.
This strategy has been planned since the summer of 2020, but is only now entering the final phase, due to the ideal conditions provided not only by the Ómicron variant, but also by the high rate of vaccination coverage in Spain. The Spanish health authorities will meet this week to detail the last details, but it is not expected that it will be adopted yet.
“With the enormous transmissibility of Covid, it is a very big challenge to strictly comply with universal surveillance protocols, it is becoming impossible”, points out to El País Amparo Larrauri, responsible for the surveillance group for influenza and other respiratory viruses, noting that , given this new reality, health authorities are working “in the transition from universal surveillance to a sentinel of respiratory infection”.
However, Amparo Larrarui highlights that this change cannot be made “overnight”: “We have international commitments [da notificações de novos casos] and the new systems must be consolidated”. The official also indicated that there is already five Spanish autonomous communities to adopt a pilot project in this scope.
This new strategy is not, however, consensual. Vice President of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology and Public Health Specialist at the University of Valencia, Óscar Zurriaga, rejected that this is the time to treat Covid-19, which “is not like the rest of the diseases”, like the flu. “It’s a pandemic and we should continue to work with that in mind,” he stressed.
The association of primary care physicians also disagrees with the Spanish government’s plan to “influenza” Covid-19 and question whether it is “normal” that there are “200 deaths daily” by an illness.