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To what extent can one live together with a lethal virus? It seems like a trick question but it is not: it is a question that is answered day by day and month by month depending on the place and time.

When we all closed our countries tight and wondered if it would be wise for children to go out for an hour a day, in Sweden restrictions were minimal and the apocalypse did not come.

I arrive a cumulative incidence rate about ten times higher to that of its neighbors Finland, Norway and Denmark and ten times more deaths, but if we wanted the apocalypse, if that was our yardstick, we must admit that no, there was not.

The trauma of that first confinement, a trauma that we drag on and that will be difficult to get rid of, makes that sometimes Anything other than staying home for twenty-four hours seems the same to us. And it is not.

Even if we stay in our country, the truth is that all the autonomous communities take some kind of restriction measure, even if they are not the same. All. Even Madrid has its basic health areas confined with more or less surveillance, it has its minimum capacity, its curfew, its closing of bars and restaurants at certain times … It seems that everyone looks at Madrid, an example of a more approach Swedish when it comes to coping with the pandemic and he hopes that every week an Ice Palace will be opened as a morgue, but fortunately, this is not the case, it is much more complex.

How complex is it? To the point that each country does what it wants and, in Spain, each region goes its own way. We know one thing: total lockdown works. We know it because we have tried it. Do intermediate measures work? To contain, yes, and there it depends on what your goal of coexistence with the coronavirus.

If your goal is “I want a level of transmission such that it allows me to have something similar to a normal life even though for a few months I have full hospitals and I know that every day there will be a number of people who die” you don’t need to push too hard. In fact, As exasperating as it may seem, tightening too much does not guarantee better results either. Let’s go with some examples of one thing and the other.

Evolution of hospitalized cases and ICU.

For me, the most shocking example of this third wave is not Madrid. Madrid grew to almost 1,000 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and from then on it went down. It was always with a high level of hospitalization and right now it is the community with the highest percentage of occupied beds both in total and in the ICU. This is not a success story in healthcare.

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Now, while all the other communities closed borders, shopping centers, small businesses, bars and restaurants … Madrid left them open. And left the subway open. And the buses. And, of course, cinemas, theaters, concert halls. Raphael performed before ten thousand people at the WiZink Center …

To think that this has not had consequences is not to be realistic. The issue is what consequences and what expectations were had. So far this year, some 2,300 people have died in Madrid. It’s a tragedy. What happens is that if we look around there are more serious tragedies … that have forced us to reinforce social distancing measures much more with greater or lesser success.

Let’s go to the Valencian Community, for example. Comunidad Valenciana did everything possible to maintain normality in a bet that seemed crazy and probably was. We want all of this to work according to some law of cause and effect, but it doesn’t. The same thing that more or less worked in Madrid, in the Valencian Community it was a disaster and looking for a political approach seems wrong to me.

It was not until January 19 that the government of the Valencian Generalitat decided to close the hotel business and restrict trade. By then, its cumulative incidence was 983 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous 14 days. It would go up to 1,459 on January 27. That same day, the ICUs were at 62% of their capacity expanded only with Covid clinical cases, field hospitals were built anywhere and were blown up and the dead numbered over 100 a day.

Now, once everything is closed, Has the Valencian Community slowed down at the same speed as Madrid? Well no. Exactly one month after implementing the measures, the Valencian Community has registered an incidence of 295.44 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, that is, five times less than it had in just three weeks. His critical units have reduced their occupancy to 38.48%.

As can be seen in the following graphs, similar situations have been experienced in Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha, Murcia, Castilla y León and many other places where the measurements have been very similar to what in other countries is called “absolute confinement”. They have worked, again.

Data by autonomous communities in the middle of the third wave.

Data by autonomous communities in the middle of the third wave.

Data by autonomous communities when the third wave is going down.

Data by autonomous communities when the third wave is going down.

While these communities have descended at a frantic pace, there have been two that have not come down so fast. One, obviously, is Madrid. The other is Catalonia. The exasperating thing, again, is that the measures are far from the same.

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There are no a priori models that serve to systematize the results. Catalonia relatively soon limited the operation of the hotel industry, reserving the schedule to a couple of hours for breakfast and another couple of hours for lunch. Only as of February 8, the margin has been slightly widened, allowing three hours for breakfast (from 7 to 10) and four and a half for lunch (from 11 to 17:30).

The first measures served to mitigate the rise. Catalonia barely exceeded 800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a maximum that in perspective was one of the lowest in all of Spain. On January 27, the date that we are using for comparison, Catalonia was in 589 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Three weeks later, it’s at 251.86, a little less than half.

As you can see, keeping the hospitality industry slightly and not closing it completely may have prevented a descent to Valencian or Extremadura but it has not prevented an appreciable decline… Although the trend seems to be towards a certain stagnation that can begin to be seen next week, with ICUs above 40% Covid occupancy.

The problem is if it is compared, again, with Madrid. Because Madrid, I said, the most that has limited are dinners, but keeping them until 9 for almost a month to extend them until 11 this week.

Madrid goes down slow, but not much slower than Catalonia: from 988 it goes to 427.08. Again, just under half … and the same exhaustion of the trend is not observed, at least in the short term. Why is it like this? Why is Madrid falling at the same rate as Catalonia with much less strict measures? Why do they maintain practically the same percentage of ICU occupancy? Impossible to know. If there were a single measure to be implemented that always worked in the same way, all countries would take it and save problems and deaths.

There are no conclusions beyond the obvious: almost always, the more you close, the faster you go down. Especially in the hospitalized. But there is the “almost”, of course, and the “almost” matters a lot. If the Valencian Community or Extremadura had followed the Madrid road, they would have collapsed. If Madrid had encountered an epidemic situation like that of the Valencian Community or Extremadura, or like the one that the capital itself encountered a year ago, it would have had to close whether it wanted to or not. I said, there is no constant causal relationship and everything will have to be studied calmly: home confinement is not the only solution but it is not a whim. At the intermediate points, we will find virtue.

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