As the idea of treating covid like an endemic disease, similar to the flu, is gaining ground, Spain has become the first major European nation to explicitly suggest that people learn to live with it.
The suggestion is gradually gaining more support and could lead to many governments re evaluating the way in which they deal with the virus as is the case in the UK with the British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announcing in an interview with the BBC last Sunday that the U.K. is “on a path towards transitioning from pandemic to endemic.”
However, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, is the first world leader to come out openly with the prospect of Europe moving beyond pandemic-style restrictions on normal life.
Having highlighted the fact that the omicron variant has much lower hospitalization and death rates, despite record infections, stating that most of the cases being registered were asymptomatic, Sanchez said in a radio interview this week that, “We have to evaluate the evolution of Covid from pandemic to an endemic illness,” adding that European governments may need to assess the disease with different parameters than ones used so far.
But, as the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread in Spain, the Spanish government has been working on a new Covid-19 surveillance system that will mirror the one that has been used for years to monitor the flu. The new system will calculate numbers from a statistically significant sample, rather than rely on the daily reporting of each and every diagnosed infection.
There will be no more reporting of every single diagnosed infection, nor will tests be carried out at the slightest symptom. The coronavirus will be monitored just like any other respiratory illness.
The new system is being considered as the number of daily cases in Spain continue to hit new records.
One expert, however, Iván Sanz, head of the National Influenza Centre in Valladolid, emphasised that treating Covid-19 like the flu does not mean minimizing its importance. According to an estimate by the Carlos III Health Institute, influenza caused around 15,000 deaths, directly or indirectly, during the 2017-2018 flu season, an average of 41 every day.