EXPERTS in Spain have all agreed that masks should be worn this winter and would keep cold, flu, and COVID outbreaks to a minimum.
Eastern European countries have the highest incidence rates at present. This coincides with the fact that they are also the ones with the fewest number of fully vaccinated inhabitants. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Europe is once again the “epicentre” of the pandemic worldwide and that it is going through a “critical point of resurgence”.
For example, Romania, with an incidence rate of 809, has only 39.6% of the population fully vaccinated. Belgium, on the other hand, another country with a high current transmission rate (807 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days), has 74% of the population fully vaccinated.
Experts explain that the incidence rate on its own is just an epidemiological indicator and in a widely vaccinated society high incidence rates on their own do not indicate a serious situation- hospital occupancy rates and deaths should be considered before rushing to conclusions.
Are vaccinations on their own enough?
The current Spanish low to medium-risk situation has not been sustained solely by the high vaccination rate. The mandatory use of masks indoors in public places and on public transport, as well as outdoors when it is not possible to maintain social distancing, has greatly assisted in keeping fresh outbreaks at bay.
This fact has been highlighted by epidemiologist Miguel Ángel Martínez González who said: “It has been a very appropriate measure and I think it must be maintained until at least the spring of 2022. On the other hand, countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany or France, among others, were lifting this measure, mainly before the summer.”
Dr Martínez, Public Health expert and co-author of La Sanidad en llamas (Healthcare in flames), said that older people and/or people with chronic diseases may respond poorly to the vaccine and new variants may emerge, adding that the vaccine is not 100% effective.
The doctor also pointed out that a cold spell is now coming which can lead to greater transmission of the coronavirus due to people congregating indoors. The expert cautiously predicts that between now and Christmas “there may be small waves”, but that the incidence will continue to oscillate “between 50 and 100”, although it will depend on the prudence of the government, whom he urges to maintain until at least the spring of 2022 measures such as masks, distance, indoor ventilation, tracing, isolation of contagions and quarantines.
The coordinator of Infectious Diseases of the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine (SEMI), José Manuel Ramos, agreed with his colleague, saying that the vaccination rate, together with the maintenance of the mask indoors and avoiding crowds is the best way to avoid transmission.