The good thing about numbering the Covid waves is that it brings some clarity, as if we were placing them on a shelf and making sure that we did not miss any and there is room for some more. The downside is that it is quite inaccurate. It is not easy to know how many Covid waves there have been in Europe or in Spain and it gives an equivocal feeling when it comes to understanding the problem country by country. Okay, the first wave caught us all the same, convinced that we would be special and that it was not necessary for us (us!) To buy tests to detect uncontrolled transmission earlier, buy masks to prevent it or buy sufficient protective equipment to stop her.
This sin of pride was common to all of Europe and, I would say, to the entire West. Having seen so much SARS from afar, always magically stopping in the Urals, gave us a sense of security that was nothing more than magical thinking. If one sees in perspective, more than a year later, the graphs of detected cases, It is shocking to see the very few that we managed to detect in March and April 2020; how that first wave, which was frightening in practically the entire continent, appears as a harmless little fungus compared to what we would see later, when we already began to have more reliable data.
The problem, then, with this first wave is our inability to quantify it. Because we do not know, we do not even know how many people died, and this problem, which may be amplified in the case of Spain due to the negligence of the Ministry of Health when establishing a case criterion according to the situation at the time, can be extended to many other countries. From those days, we remember the fright and surprise. We remember Italy and then us and then France, the United Kingdom, the United States … The endless domino in which each piece felt that it could not fall even when it saw the one in front wobble.
Now, the first wave passed, and as practically all western countries began our confinements at the same time, we all went out together with incidents that today we would consider ridiculous, unthinkable, even below 10 cases per 100,000 inhabitants every 14 days. That’s when the disagreements begin. That’s where accounting starts to leak. The so-called “second wave” is associated at the continental level with the October rallies. Some rallies that were terrible in countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Holland, France or Italy and that in many cases even more dead than the first wave, as can be seen in the graphic above.
The point is that this “October wave”, which affected practically all countries in one way or another, It was not so hard neither with the United Kingdom nor with Spain. I’m not saying it wasn’t shocking, that it was at a time when plans were already being made towards normality, but it didn’t affect in the same way. Why? Impossible to know. In the Spanish case, it seems clear that something influenced the fact that, strictly speaking, our second wave began in August, with the upswings in Aragon, Navarra, Catalonia and Madrid, which are unparalleled in any other neighboring country. We reached October with a very high base incidence, much higher than the other countries, and, yes, we saw how the incidence skyrocketed, but without reaching the peaks that were seen in central Europe or those that we would see three months later. Let’s say that by dividing the wave in two and prolonging it in time, we soften it.
In any case, as we know, there were thousands of deaths in our country during October and November, there were restrictions, there was a state of alarm and there were partial confinements. It was no joke. Now, the rhythm changed with respect to the rest of Europe … except precisely the United Kingdom, which, yes, also had an October wave, but mitigated, nothing compared to what would be seen just two months later. While the countries hardest hit by the October wave closed completely, took drastic measures and forgot to “save Christmas”, here we thought that, well, since the second wave had not been so bad … we were still saved from the third. It was a huge mistake, by far the biggest, absurd and shared, of the entire management of the pandemic.
Even before the Constitution Bridge, at the beginning of December, something dangerous was already taking place in Spain. It could be anecdotal or it could end up like our neighbor Portugal or the British Isles, where, in both the UK and Ireland, incidence and mortality records were reached courtesy of the famous “British variant” that we talk about so much and so little about. we care about sequencing. Could the fact of have relaxed the measures at the time of expansion across the continent of the famous variant make our wave particularly violent? It is very probable. The December-January wave, what we usually call the “third wave,” was very localized. Yes, there were Central European countries like the Czech Republic that also hooked it, just like Sweden hooked it, where the transmission base is always so high that it is highly exposed to this type of mutations, but it went unnoticed in half of Europe.
The following graph is quite eloquent: there is a gulf in Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Ireland between what happened in October and what would happen in December-January. Not only at incidence levels but at mortality levels. From December 6 to March 6, 24,790 deaths were reported in Spain, that is, practically the same ones that were accepted in the first three months of the pandemic, although we have already said that these figures were very unreliable when not blatantly false. Either due to the variant or due to social behavior or a mixture of both factors, the virus put British, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish health on the ropes during those three months … but it hardly affected other countries such as France or Italy , where there was a very little and very limited rally, which could be controlled immediately.
That was until the third week of February arrived and things started to get complicated. What number do we put on this wave? In some countries, yes, it was the fourth. In most, the third. In Spain, we are still not clear about it because it has not yet hit us fully and because we had August when the others were so calm. The “fourth wave” or, if you prefer, “The wave of March 2021” is being very hard in Poland, as it was a little earlier in the Czech Republic and threatens France as it threatened Italy and Germany at the time, countries where things are beginning to calm down. Now, how does this European drift affect Spain? Are we in the same situation with the domino pieces that we discussed last year?
In principle, no, although it is difficult to be categorical in this pandemic. Of course, it is possible that we will see this increase in transmission with a delay, but it seems more likely that it is actually these countries that are they are living now the crisis that we already lived in January and February. They are in their third wave, but with the times changed. Strictly speaking, the warning signs should now come from those countries that spent the New Year’s bad drink with us and at the moment there is no significant increase in the incidence in any of them.
Furthermore, the advantage of having prolonged the descent of the third wave for so long is that we have reached a very low base level. Not quite as low as that of July, but much lower than that of October, when the second European wave caught us, and much lower than that of December, when we started our third. Although it is very likely that the rally we are going through will become even more complicated, it will hardly reach the previous levels nor those we are seeing in Paris, for example, where hospitals are once again overcrowded. It is also probable that with the change of season a new wave will appear among those not yet vaccinated, who will be the majority, but it is impossible to measure its impact when or to anticipate which ordinal number it will correspond to.
It seems that there is something cyclical and to some extent inevitable in these upswings where you try to live with the virus. Even with mass vaccination, we will be exposed to mutations and variants and fingers will have to be crossed that none challenge the effectiveness of available vaccines. At the moment, we cannot assure anything, but it does give the feeling that the more time passes, the more we learn and that, which in principle is obvious, is also a reason for optimism: if learning were so easy, we would not have spent a lot of time. year stumbling on stones so similar.