A REPORT into Spain’s handling of the Covid 19 pandemic has warned that it is ‘probable’ in the medium or short term that there will be a new pandemic caused by ‘highly serious respiratory viruses’.
The 157-page document produced by a group of experts was commissioned in 2021 by the Interterritorial Council- a group made up of the national health minister and 17 regional counterparts.
The study concludes that the best way to fight a new pandemic is to ‘prevent it’.
The experts propose a roadmap be adopted with 72 actions aimed at preparing Spain for such an eventuality and to not be caught out like in 2020.
They say the health service did not have enough protective materials; not enough resources; no clear strategy to react to the threat; a lack of co-ordination; and the most vulnerable people did not get protected.
Their recommendations include the precautionary principle to delay or prevent a virus from entering Spain- something that was not immediately done in 2020 when border closures came when the coronavirus was already circulating in the country.
Secondly, they propose reforming the legal framework with a pandemic law or other measures that speed up the purchase of materials, the management of human resources and prevent the courts from overturning exceptional measures such as the restriction of movements.
They also call for the creation of a strategic reserve of materials, such as masks or ventilators for ICUs and for a good contact tracing system.
In nursing homes, they propose expanding preventative measures and strengthening coordination with hospitals to avoid the thousands of deaths that occurred in nursing homes.
They also advise strengthening and expanding the capacities of the health system by increasing staff, especially in Primary Care.
In terms of communication, they highlight the importance of designing plans that ensure rigorous and effective information and that vaccines are reasonably priced.
In this regard, the vaccination campaign, which had a massive take up from people, has been one of the aspects that experts regard as being well executed along with social protection measures and furlough schemes.
However, much of the reports devoted to the mistakes that were made after Covid 19 started spreading in Spain.
The experts highlight the lack of the necessary equipment, the weakness of early warning and surveillance systems, as well as insufficient diagnostic resources, undersized staffs and shortcomings in the information system.
They also criticise the absence of protocols in nursing homes and the limited coordination between the health system and social services, which ‘was at the heart of the tragedy experienced’ in the homes.
There was a reference to ‘very striking’ communication errors, including the ‘overexposure’ of ‘regular spokesperson’ Fernando Simon, who is not expressly mentioned in the report.
It’s pointed out that hasty assessments were made about the routes of Covid-19 transmission and the effectiveness of masks and about the evolution of the pandemic, which was initially minimised.
They also slammed the ‘information intoxication’ of ‘relatively minority’ media outlets and social networks.
The report states that the pandemic left a trail of people with persistent and very limiting Covid and the outbreak caused a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of other pathologies.
There was also a significant impact on mental health, especially amongst younger people which they claim is ‘still palpable today’
Health Minister, Monica Garcia, says that several of the report recommendations are ‘already being developed’ and the creation of a Public Health Agency in 2024.