Spain is set to avoid a sixth coronavirus wave, leading health experts are predicting.
Although the incidence rate in recent weeks has edged slightly higher to 67 cases per 100,000 in comparison to around 46 last month, the number of people now in intensive care has fallen with 395 requiring treatment compared to 505 at the same point last month.
The total number of people that have been hospitalised has stabilised over the past month with 1933 registered on Thursday, November 11 according to official figures published by the Ministry of Health.
This is just nine less than the number recorded on the same day in October where 1942 people required hospital treatment.
The country’s vaccination campaign is now the envy of Europe with 88.9% of the population now fully vaccinated against the virus.
Despite the efforts of Spain’s army of health workers and the efficacy of the vaccination rollout, there are fears that the incidence rate within other parts of Europe is starting to grow once again due to the Delta variant.
Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, which have lower vaccination rates than Spain have all seen a spike in the daily number of coronavirus cases, reporting their highest daily numbers since the pandemic began.
This has naturally led to Spanish citizens asking whether the country is on the brink of a sixth wave.
So is Spain on the verge of a sixth wave?
Quique Bassat, an epidemiologist and researcher at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) at the ISGlobal Institute in Barcelona thinks not.
“The situation in Europe is a bit scary and the data in Spain are not good, given the indicators are rising. But I would not call what is happening here a wave”.
“The rise is not that explosive, the impact on the health system is not significant, and nor is it likely to be, thanks to the vaccines. It’s more of an uptick that is rising slowly and that we must monitor now to see how it evolves.”
Clara Prats, a researcher of Computational Biology at Catalonia’s Polytechnical University (UPC), says that “cases are going to continue to rise for at least two more weeks.”
“It’s more difficult to specify beyond that, although the advantage we have in Spain is that it has been the last country to see a rise and we can compare ourselves to those where it happened earlier and have similar vaccination rates. One example is Denmark. What we are seeing there is that the rise in cases has been significant but sustained since September, when they removed the last restrictions.”
Others agree that Spain could soon have the virus fully under control, with some predicting that this could be as soon as early 2022.
Christian Drosten, Director of virology at the La Charité University Hospital in Berlin believes that both Spain and neighbouring Portugal will be able to overcome the coronavirus pandemic by Spring next year.
Speaking to Der Spiegel about the current situation in Germany and the record number of daily infections, Drosten said, “We are very far from the end of the pandemic. As soon as the delta variant prevails with all its force, hospitals will be saturated.
"On the other hand, in countries with high vaccination rates such as Spain and Portugal, the pandemic may be definitively overcome in the spring," he added.
Drosten explained that the only way to gain control over the pandemic was to make sure a large part of every population is vaccinated so that only regional outbreaks occur. Only then can a pandemic phase be considered to have passed to an endemic phase.
“We have to move intelligently and prudently towards the endemic phase avoiding a collapse of the health system along the way and the death toll from skyrocketing as in the United Kingdom. To do this, we must react as soon as possible," he said.
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