- “The virus spreads rapidly and can have a huge impact on public health with fatal results in risk groups,” warned European experts about the spread of the coronavirus
Spanish newspaper OK Diario reports that on 2 March, a report from the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that EU countries pay urgent attention to the coronavirus epidemic which could have “fatal results.”
That report advised that all large gatherings and events, such as the 500 demonstrations held across Spain to Mark International Women’s Day, including the 8M demonstrations held in Madrid, that were encouraged by the Government, and which attracted over half a million people, be cancelled.
They warned that Covid-19 is “caused by a contagious virus, there are no therapies or vaccines and presumably no pre-existing immunity.” “The risk associated with infection is currently considered to be moderate to high,” they said, “according to the probability of transmission and the impact of the disease.”
“Based on the epidemiological characteristics observed, it is assumed that the entire population is susceptible, although there may be risk factors that increase that susceptibility,” said EU experts. “The virus spreads rapidly and can have a huge impact on public health with fatal results in groups at risk,” in addition, they warned, of a social and economic “disturbance.”
The EU said that the virus would spread “with fatal results” while the government denied the risks
The report referred to scientific evidence in studies learned from China’s experience, showing that government intervention reduced transmission.
“Therefore, it is of utmost importance that measures are implemented in an appropriate and proportional manner to interrupt transmission chains, prevent further spread, reduce the intensity of the epidemic and slow down the number of cases.” “This will ultimately reduce disease, save lives, and minimize socio-economic impact. Delaying transmission or reducing the peak of the outbreak is crucial to allow health systems to prepare and face a greater influx of patients, “the report warned.
By that day, on 2 March, the epidemic was already conspicuous in Spain with 114 cases. Today there are now over 25,000 infected, with almost 1,400 deaths, according to the latest figures. And the pandemic remains unstoppable.
The dossier identified the serious risk at the beginning of the month. It advised governments that they should prepare for the immediate activation of national emergency response mechanisms, “ensuring that the general public is aware of the seriousness” of the coronavirus (something “key” to “preventing further spread”), the “improvement of surveillance and epidemiological research”, the “implementation of social distancing to interrupt chains of transmission” and the “health capacity”.
The report anticipated, fifteen days ago, “a risk of widespread and sustained transmission” across the whole of the EU “in the coming weeks”.
Public Gatherings Discouraged
Recommendations included the cancellation of mass events, such as 8-M, as well as “crowded transport systems.” Even last Monday, despite the implementation of the state of emergency, The Leader reported on overcrowded tubes and trains in and around Madrid and other major cities. And although transport services have now been restricted to half, the Government, in many cases, has still failed to limit, the sale of tickets.
The evidence that the coronavirus was progressing uncontrollably already clear. That same day, March 2, in Italy, now the country hardest hit, the pandemic had already accounted for 1,694 cases and 34 deaths. The coronavirus was showing its worst face in many different European countries after leaving 2,921 dead in China.
Despite this, the Spanish Government remained oblivious. On that same day the head of the Centre for Emergencies and Health Alerts, Fernando Simón, denied a risk of widespread transmission and also the collapse of hospitals: “If they are able to withstand the pressure that is generated every year by the flu, and if the same contingency systems are maintained, the health centres and hospitals will be able to bear the additional load, “he said. On Friday the 6th, he said that there was no risk to anyone attending the demonstrations on March 8th.
Health said that the coronavirus was under control and that there was no “massive introduction of unidentified cases”, that the “transmission nuclei (Community of Madrid and La Rioja) were well identified “and that” the risk of community transmission “had not increased.
At that early stage the European infection control agency was alerting governments to take powerful measures: to expand the capacity of diagnostic tests in local laboratories, reinforce containment measures in the health environment and take precautions for airborne transmission in suspected and confirmed cases, aiming “100% compliance with standard precautions” (including hand and respiratory hygiene), to promote voluntary and forced quarantine for close contacts of coronavirus suspects and symptom monitoring, and especially “to promote measures of social distancing”. Which included, “avoiding crowded transport” and “massive events”.