Spain wants EU to manage COVID as ‘common flu’

Speaking to EURACTIV.com on condition of anonymity, an EU diplomat said it seems that a jab specifically for Omicron will not be needed. [Shutterstock/Mongkolchon Akesin]

The Spanish government has worked for several weeks on a plan to approach the COVID-19 disease as if it was the common flu, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported, quoting El País.

Official sources told El País that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is trying to open the same debate at the EU level.

The Spanish government, a coalition of the socialist party (PSOE) and left-wing Unidas Podemos (United We Can), is currently finalising the plan to manage COVID-19 as another respiratory disease.

In practical terms, this would mean moving away from a system of detailed surveillance of infections, and instead, estimating how the disease spreads based on meaningful samples collected by health professionals, El País and EFE reported.

Asked about this plan, in an exclusive interview aired on Monday by private radio station Cadena SER, Sánchez confirmed that the government has been “working on it (the plan) for (several) weeks (…)”.

It is now up to the people responsible for managing the pandemic at the Spanish Centre for the Coordination of Alerts and Health Emergencies (CCAES) and the Alerts Committee to accept, amend or reject it.

“It is a debate that we are already trying to open at the EU level; the Minister of Health (Carolina Darias) has raised it with various European health ministers”, Sánchez added.

In his opinion, it is “a necessary debate” because thanks to research and science we have “the answer to protect ourselves and reduce infections among the population as far as we can”.

The socialist PM also spoke about the significant drop in mortality during the sixth wave, marked by the Omicron variant. Compared to the average 13% mortality rate during the first wave, he said the current one lies at 1%.

In the same interview with Cadena SER, Sánchez announced that the executive would regulate the price of antigen tests and also announced the purchase of 344,000 COVID-19 pills from Pfizer to better deal with the omicron variant.

“The debate we had before, or during Christmas, mainly focused on the supply of these tests; there was an exponential increase in demand but not in supply. This has already been solved; now we will focus on controlling the price of antigen tests,” Sánchez added.

An Omicron jab not necessary

Speaking to EURACTIV.com on condition of anonymity, an EU diplomat said it seems that a jab specifically for Omicron will not be needed as the variant is so contagious that everybody will have already contracted it by the time a specialist vaccine is developed.

The diplomat explained that based on scientific advice, the most likely near-future scenario seems to be an endemic virus, similar to influenza.

Moreover, another EU diplomat said with Omicron, the push for contact tracing is also losing momentum and becomes increasingly pointless.

(Fernando Heller | EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

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