Alfredo Corell, immunologist: “With the delta variant, even outdoors we cannot be calm”
He explains that he himself has been infected in a meal outdoors, being vaccinated: “Without a mask and breathing closely the air that an infected person exhales, it is clear that you can get it”
López-Acuña, epidemiologist: “The measure was irrelevant, and not taking it would have saved us a good part of the infections” of this fifth wave
The measure was approved by the Government almost a month ago, and today it is being examined by the Congress of Deputies. The June 24, the Council of Ministers approved the decree that made flexible the use of the mask outdoors, withdrawing its obligation whenever there is a minimum distance between people. Two days later, it went into effect: we could take it off on the street (although the vast majority of people did not). One month after, the decree needs the ratification of Congress so that the measure does not wane. And the epidemiological situation has radically changed. To worst.
The June 24, in Spain there were 44,220 COVID infections and a cumulative incidence (IA) of 93 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Today, those data has been multiplied by more than five. We have more than 284,000 active cases, and an AI above 600.
Pressure to withdraw, pressure to recover
Experts like Daniel López-Acuña, epidemiologist, have been asking for the same for weeks. “For me, it makes no sense to approve this decree, the mandatory nature of the masks should be restored until we have a sufficiently low incidence, which allows us to know that we do not have a high risk of contagion on the street. It it would be more sensible to vote against, at this time. The best thing that could be done is not go ahead with that approval ”.
The government clings to vaccination data to justify the removal of outdoor masks. But for the epidemiologist, it is not enough. “Of course there are more people vaccinated, but not enough. The other 50%, half of the Spanish population, is still susceptible to infection. The government should not just stick to vaccination, it should restore restrictive measures, ”he insists.
The June 24, after the approval of the decree of the masks, the then Minister of Health, Carolina Darias was very graphic: “The masks give way to smiles again”. The pandemic thus entered a new phase, the measure it meant the beginning of the end, leaving the hardest moments behind. The smiles on the street after 13 months of mandatory mask. But taking this measure, experts say, had and has more implications.
We have relaxed outdoors
The decision to remove the mask outdoors it has its psychological component. The measure sends the message that everything is going well, that a certain relaxation is possible, after a year and a half of pandemic. Y the surveys corroborate that we are looking forward to doing so.
This one that has just been published, prepared by IPSOS, places the Spaniards in the lead among those who think to relax the safety distance and the use of the mask as soon as they are vaccinated. Only 4 out of 10 respondents in Spain plan to maintain social distance, and only 3 out of 10 will continue to use the mask.
With the removal of the mask, “there is a metalanguage of false security, it is transmitted that this is already over, that we can go on our own, and there is less adjustment to respect the physical distance. It is true that people have been contained for a year and a half, but you cannot release the desire when there is still danger”, Warns López-Acuña.
The danger is the delta variant, with which the coronavirus has gained so much in transmissibility that contagion occurs much more easily. Suddenly, in some cases. “With this variant, even outdoors we cannot be calm. To be infected it does not have to be a massive meeting, far from it “, warns the immunologist Alfredo Corell. Standing still, at a cookout, for example, Without a mask and breathing closely the air that the infected person exhales, “it is clear that you can get it.” It is clear to him because it has happened to himself.
Contagion at a cookout
His contagion occurred through “A person with whom I ate, in a meeting abroad”Corell tells NIUS. “It was a meal. We were several people, all but one vaccinated. And in my case it is the only time this has occurred: being more than 15 minutes without a mask, in proximity, and outdoors. There were no indoor encounters ”.
The news reached him a couple of days later. The unvaccinated person reports symptoms, warns the rest, and Corell, who had symptoms similar to a cold or an allergy, decided to have an antigen test. It came out negative. But PCR was done and “it came out positive, although without a great viral load”. He decided to confine himself, then, for ten days, and now he is waiting for the results of a new PCR that has been done this Tuesday. He is okay, His covid has been mild, and he has been without symptoms for days.
Yours is a good example that outdoor, outdoor contagions occur. And that, if there is not enough distance, there must be a mask to avoid them. It’s what Linsey Marr calls the “two out of three” rule. Outdoors, one of these two conditions must also be met: o respect the distance safety (meter and a half) between people or use the mask, if that distance cannot be respected.
More supercontagators with the delta variant?
With this variant, it is likely that cases like the one Corell recounts are happening a lot more than with the previous variant. It is highly contagious, also outdoors. Explains the immunologist who has data from diagnostic centers that perform PCR “where they have found positives with 5 cycles, and that is a real outrage”.
What does that mean? “It means there are a number of copies of the virus in that spectacular sample. That explains that there are super contagious people, with a lot of viral load, with this delta variant. And in his presence, without a mask, and even outdoors, it would not be necessary to spend 15 minutes to become infected, the contagion would be much faster ”, warns the immunologist.
“It is not that we can exclusively attribute this fifth wave to the removal of the mask outdoors, but it has not helped at all”, Concludes López-Acuña. Above all, “when there is so much virus circulating and when the number of outdoor contacts and crowds are much higher, with the summer. There are concerts, events, parties, bottles … This measure was irrelevant, and not taking it would have saved us a good part of the contagion ”.