Health monitors seven variants of the virus, of which five have already reached Spain

The British variant (B.1.1.7) is not growing as fast as expected, but with the passing of the days others have been arriving in Spain. In addition to the South African (B.1.351) and the Brazilian (P.1), the Ministry of Health monitors four new ones: a second British variant (VOC 202102/02), the Californian (B.1.429), the Rio de Janeiro variant (P2) and Nigerian (B.1.525). These last two are already in our country.

This was explained this Monday by the director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), Fernando Simon, at a press conference. Simón has made reference to a report published a few hours before, in which the department directed by Carolina Darias it details the characteristics of the so-called variants of interest, that is, those that are better transmitted, that are more virulent or that can escape the effect of the vaccine. According to the data of the Ministry, to date they have caused 916 positives.

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The vast majority (898 cases) are a consequence of the British variant. However, the panic that caused its irruption in the middle of Christmas has been diminishing, despite the impact of the third wave. Simon himself has recognized that the most pessimistic forecasts of Health, which predicted that it would be the dominant one for the end of February or the beginning of March, have not been fulfilled: "It grows somewhat slower than we expected."

To date, the director of the CCAES calculates that between 25 and 30% of positives in Spain are caused by this variant, although they are not conclusive data, due to the disparities between the autonomous communities: in some it exceeds 50% of the total, while in others it barely accounts for 1 in 30 cases.

The British variant is a real danger, although there are other potential threats. In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about the South African, which has already accumulated six cases, and the Brazilian, which has barely caused a positive, always according to official data. But in Spain there are already two others: the one from Rio de Janeiro, with two travelers diagnosed in Madrid and another 9 in the Canary Islands, and the Nigerian, with a positive last January.

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Simón has also explained that the CCAES is investigating a variant detected at the end of 2020 in California and a second British variant of which 23 cases have already been detected in England and one in the Netherlands. None of them have reached our country at the moment, but the second is of particular concern about a "possible greater escape from the immune response." In other words: in case it is capable of infecting people who have been vaccinated or who have already passed the virus.

"We can't relax"

The new variants burst into a scenario reminiscent of the one that preceded Christmas. Spain has controlled the third wave of the virus and already is very close to exiting extreme risk, according to the parameters established by the European Commission. The cumulative incidence is 252.19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days. The maximum level is reached above 250.

However, Simon has sent a message of caution: "We can't relax". On a day in which Galicia has determined the reopening of the hotel trade or Castilla y León the extension of the hours, the director of the CCAES recalled that the relaxation of restrictions in some autonomous communities does not mean that control tools cease to exist: "Modifying a measure implies better applying all the others", has said. And he added: "We have a clear downward trend in recent weeks, but we are still experiencing high incidences."

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The forecast of the Health is that the reduction in the number of cases is maintained for at least one week, in line with the evolution of the pandemic on a European and global scale. But other ministries are already preparing new tools to accelerate the de-escalation and to save Holy Week and, later, the summer. This is the case of Industria, whose owner, Reyes Maroto, has indicated this Thursday that the Executive is working on a vaccination passport that allows creating safe corridors to attract tourism to Spain.

The director of the CCAES has cooled down the expectations generated by Maroto, in the face of a "complex" measure, he argued, which implies assessing the "ethical consequences" on society, since it would be divided between those who have an immunity certificate and those who do not have it. . In this sense, Simón has recalled that in Spain the number of vaccinated is still "limited" —although it evolves favorably, with more than three million first doses administered, he has clarified—, therefore "It is not something that will be available now". "They are legitimate discussions, but we have to be careful not to flag this action," he concluded.