Mon. May 23rd, 2022

With one of Europe’s highest vaccination rates and most pandemic-battered economies, the Spanish government is laying the groundwork to treat the next infection surge not as an emergency but an illness that is here to stay. 

(latimes.com)

And similar steps are under consideration in neighboring Portugal and United Kingdom.

The idea is to move from crisis mode to control mode, approaching the virus in much the same way countries deal with flu or measles. That means accepting that infections will occur and providing extra care for at-risk people and patients with complications.

Spain’s center-left prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, wants the European Union to consider similar changes now that the surge of the omicron variant has shown that the disease is becoming less lethal.

“What we are saying is that in the next few months and years, we are going to have to think, without hesitancy and according to what science tells us, how to manage the pandemic with different parameters,” he said Monday.

Sánchez said the changes should not happen before the omicron surge is over, but officials need to start shaping the post-pandemic world now: “We are doing our homework, anticipating scenarios.”

The World Health Organization has said that it’s too early to consider any immediate shift. The organization does not have clearly defined criteria for declaring Covid-19 an endemic disease, but its experts have previously said that it will happen when the virus is more predictable and there are no sustained outbreaks.

“It’s somewhat a subjective judgment because it’s not just about the number of cases. It’s about severity, and it’s about impact,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum panel on Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases doctor in the U.S., said Covid-19 could not be considered endemic until it drops to “a level that it doesn’t disrupt society.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has advised countries to transition to more routine handling of Covid-19 after the acute phase of the pandemic is over. The agency said in a statement that more EU states in addition to Spain will want to adopt “a more long-term, sustainable surveillance approach.”

Just over 80 percent of Spain’s population has received two vaccine doses, and authorities are focused on boosting the immunity of adults with third doses.

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