Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has offered to treat COVID-19 as an “endemic disease” rather than a pandemic this week, saying the country plans to start tracking the virus like the flu instead of counting every case.
“I believe that we have the conditions for, with precaution, slowly, to open the debate at the technical level and at the level of the health professionals, but also at the European level, to begin to evaluate the evolution of this disease with different parameters of we. have so far, “Sánchez told a Spanish radio station on Monday.
Sánchez’s comments come after El País reported that Spanish health authorities were preparing to roll out a new system to track COVID-19 like other respiratory illnesses by not testing all mildly symptomatic cases and using larger samples. small to monitor the spread.
“We will have to learn to live with [the coronavirus] as we do with many other viruses, ”Sánchez said on Friday, noting that the virus’s lethality had decreased, according to the Spanish newspaper.
The World Health Organization has warned against treating COVID-19 as endemic at this time. The senior emergency officer for Europe, Catherine Smallwood, explained that endemicity implies “the stable circulation of the virus at predictable levels”.
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“What we are seeing right now as we approach 2022 is a long way from that. We still have a tremendous amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quite rapidly, imposing new challenges,” Smallwood said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“We are certainly not at the point where we can call it endemic,” she added. “It could become rampant in due course, but securing that until 2022 is a bit difficult at this point.”
Nadhim Zahawi, Britain’s Education Secretary and former Vaccine Deployment Minister, said on Sunday that the UK could lead the way in treating COVID-19 as endemic.
“I hope we’ll be one of the first big economies to show the world how you go from a pandemic to an endemic and then manage that for as long as we have left, be it five, six, seven, 10 years, ”Zahawi said. told Sky News.
Treating COVID-19 as endemic would mean focusing efforts on increasing immune protection through vaccination and speeding up treatment instead of trying to eradicate the virus completely.
“The expected continued circulation of SARS-CoV-2 contrasts with the first wave of SARS in 2003 and with the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, when public health measures finally stopped the spread and put end to the two epidemics. Yonatan Grad, associate professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard University, explained last year.
Omicron is probably more transmissible due to its ability to evade immunity offered by previous infection and vaccines, but it is also associated with less serious illness, according to several studies.
Europe reported more than 7 million new cases of COVID-19 in the first week of January, more than double in two weeks, according to the World Health Organization.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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