SPAIN could be the first European country to downgrade Covid-19 to a” flu-like” status – just two years after clocking 1,000 deaths a day from the virus.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez pushed his EU counterparts to debate the possibility of treating Covid like the flu.
The European leader told a local radio channel the situation in Spain “is not what we faced a year ago” and that it was time “to evaluate the evolution of COVID to an endemic illness”.
The move would see lockdowns and daily infection counts scrapped in favour of a system that would track Covid cases like the regular flu.
It comes as a string of positive studies show Omicron is milder than other strains, with data revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions and protect the NHS.
The measure is set to meet stiff resistance from Germany and France where vaccinations rates remain low and where French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to make engaging in public life as tough as possible for the unvaccinated.
Sánchez cited Spain’s “exemplary” vaccine uptake which has seen more than 90 per cent of the population over 11 years old become fully vaccinated and 85 per cent of over 60s get a booster as a case for the radical change.
Spain has also seen their fatality rate drop to 1 per cent, down from 13 per cent at the height of the first wave of Covid-19 when it experienced 1,000 deaths a day.
In the UK, 83 per cent of the population aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated while 63 per cent have had their booster jab, according to the latest government figures.
The Spanish PM said it was time to respond to Covid with “new instruments” which included Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, but vaccine and mask mandates are expected to stay in place, according to Fortune.
Spain’s health ministry has developed a Covid monitoring system known as “sentinel” which mirrors a system being used to monitor flu outbreaks in the country.
It uses sample data from doctors to predict and respond to disease waves instead of trying to count every case with a test-and-trace system, according to the publication.
“Now, given [Omicron’s] enormous transmissibility, it is a huge challenge to strictly comply with universal surveillance protocols. It’s becoming impossible,” Amparo Larrauri, a senior Spanish scientist told El Pais.
The push comes as Spain finds itself in the grip of a sixth Covid wave.
The country has imposed a laxed approach and cut the isolation period from 10 to seven days and decided to quarantine students from classrooms with five or more cases.
Not all epidemiologists agree with Sánchez’s push to have the country’s Covid response downgraded.
Daniel López-Acuña, a former WHO director, told a Spanish news network: “It is inappropriate to trivialize the sixth wave and think that we are in an endemic phase.
“This type of discourse does not obey a rigorous epidemiological analysis. It will happen in many months, not now.”
Professor Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, an epidemiologist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said Spain was already using the system to supplement case counts.
He said though the idea to use sentinel was “reasonable”, it was “not clear” when it should be fully implemented.