Spain is finalizing plans to begin treating Covid-19 surveillance in the same manner as it would the flu. While the number of Omicron cases continue to rocket, the authorities believe that this is turning out to be a milder variant of the Covid-19 virus.
Speaking last Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that most of the Omicron cases being registered were asymptomatic, adding: “We are going to have to learn to live with it [the coronavirus] as we do with many other viruses.”
From El Pais:
As the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread in Spain, authorities are finalizing a plan for a new Covid-19 surveillance system that will mirror the one that has been used for years to monitor the flu. The new system will extrapolate numbers from a statistically significant sample, rather than rely on daily reporting of each and every diagnosed infection.
The system comes as case counts in Spain continue to hit new records: on Friday, the Health Ministry reported 242,440 new infections. More than seven million coronavirus cases have now been detected since the beginning of the pandemic. Speaking on Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that most of the cases being registered were asymptomatic, adding: “We are going to have to learn to live with it [the coronavirus] as we do with many other viruses.”
Health officials have been working for months on adapting what is known as influenza sentinel surveillance. Under the new system, there will be no more reporting of every single diagnosed infection, nor will tests be carried out at the slightest symptom. The coronavirus will be monitored just like any other respiratory illness.
Fortune Magazine described Spain’s new approach as an “endemic approach to Omicron: just treat it like the flu”.
The distinction is that a pandemic occurs when a disease’s growth is exponential and spreads across countries, while a disease is endemic when it is always present, but spreads at a predictable rate – much like the flu.
Prime Minister Sánchez also called on the European Union to debate the possibility of treating COVID-19 as an endemic illness, saying “The situation is not what we faced a year ago … I think we have to evaluate the evolution of COVID to an endemic illness, from the pandemic we have faced up until now.”
The shift would see an end to harsh lockdowns and daily infections counts – and would see Sapin sharply diverge from other European countries like France, Germany and Austria who are seeking to justify harsh vaccine mandates by saying they are acting to protect public health during a pandemic.