The “seventh wave of infections” leaves the highest number of hospitalized patients in the Basque Country since February

A woman is subjected to a test. / E. C.

Osakidetza cares for 410 people with covid in the plants of its centers in a week that leaves 30 new deaths

The Basque Country starts the summer with the worst data on the evolution of covid in quite some time. Deaths, infections and income rise. And this last parameter is significant because the Basque health centers did not attend to so many people on the floor since February 9, in the midst of the decline of the sixth wave. Early on Monday there were 410 patients diagnosed in public network hospitals, 69 more than the same day last week. Most of those hospitalized with covid -88%- are over 60 years old.

Of the three summers that the Basque Country is going to experience in a pandemic, this is the one that takes its first steps with the worst occupancy figures in the plant, although the previous two began in a context of strong sanitary restrictions. The first, in 2020, we came out of confinement and the muga with Cantabria had just opened. The second started with the end of the mask outdoors, but with hours and capacity still restricted. Now, the only limitation is the requirement of the buconasal protector in public transport and social health centers.

The indicators released yesterday are surprising due to the high number of hospitalized and infections. In the last seven days, Osakidetza has reported 5,543 positives. There are 1,148 more than those identified in the previous seven, which represents an increase of 26.1%. Of all of them, practically two thirds have been detected in those over 60 years of age, one of the groups on which the coronavirus surveillance strategy approved by the Ministry of Health and the autonomous communities has focused since this spring. The rest is distributed among the other three priority groups (immunosuppressed, pregnant women and health and social health workers) and those people who have been admitted to a hospital for another reason or have undergone a medical process and have tested positive in the protocol test that is practice them.

Begoña Díez, professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the UPV/EHU, affirms that in the Basque Country, as in other European territories, “we are in a seventh wave of infections” as a result of which “the cases are rising a lot, as expected”. The reason is the emergence of two subvariants of ómicron, BA.4 and BA.5, even more infectious and with greater immune escape than their sisters. Díez even advances that we will see during these weeks people who become infected with covid for the third time in this pandemic.

The expert appreciates that what happened weeks ago in Portugal is being reproduced in the whole of Spain. She, although she conveys a message of calm to the public: «Now this increase in infections is not so alarming. Logically, it will have an impact on the increase in hospitalizations and deaths, especially in the most vulnerable groups, but it will be less than that of previous waves.

The epidemiologist and pediatrician Quique Bassat, from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health, agrees with this thesis. “We are in a clear phase of rising cases due to the new subvariants, although it does so at a calm rate,” he says. If we limit ourselves to contagions, we could talk about a wave, although personally I am reluctant to use that term because I do not see that it will have a great impact on hospitals, nor does it force the authorities to recover measures to stop transmission, as happened with previous. We could say that we are in a more navigable wave.

Bassat also attributes the current high transmission to new subvariants of the virus. The latest official data, published this Monday by the Ministry of Health, put the prevalence of cases caused by BA.4 and BA.5 in the Basque Country at 61.6% during the week of June 13. The previous one was 24.5%. From the Department of Health they confirm that the Basque Country is facing “a change in the lineage of the omicron variant”. This alteration, “coupled with the fact that the prevention measures that we have in our way of life are increasingly flexible and the greater mobility of the population, may be the cause of this slow increase” in positives. Something that is also transferred to hospitalizations and deaths. Osakidetza has reported the death of 30 people from the virus in the last week, nine more than in the previous seven days.

Caution with the vulnerable

But not all the indicators show an unfavorable evolution. The ICUs remain stable: twelve patients, one less than the previous week. It is a determining parameter to analyze the severity of the virus at all times, key to establishing if it is necessary to adopt additional measures to stop transmission. Something that, given its current situation, does not seem, in the opinion of the experts, at all necessary. Although, as Díez points out, it is advisable that those who have contact with vulnerable groups reinforce prevention measures by making greater use of the mask and, if they have had a risky contact, take a pharmacy test.

How long can this seventh wave last? Bassat is confident that “it’s going down as fast as it’s going up.” It is a characteristic of ómicron, as was seen last January. In Portugal, a month passed from when cases began to increase until they reached their peak. It could be a reference. The Basque Country has already accumulated two weeks of increased infections.