If home confinement had been decreed seven days earlier, the lives of some 23,000 people throughout Spain would have been saved , according to the conclusions of an investigation into the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic , carried out by scientists from the Rovira University i Virgili de Tarragona and the University of Zaragoza.
The work, still unpublished, carries out a retrospective analysis that concludes that if the health authorities had advanced the closure seven days, the death toll “would have been approximately 5,000” , while if it had been done seven days later, “it would have been 120,000 “.
“Taking into account that the deaths in the first wave amounted to 28,000, we would have saved 23,000 “, has indicated the researcher Àlex Arenas, physicist and professor of the Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics of the Rovira i Virgili University, who has led the study.
The work highlights the” substantial “delay that occurred in the times exposure, from infection to detection. On average, the time that elapsed between performing diagnostic tests and reporting their result was “15 days. ” “Such a steep delay makes a real evaluation difficult of the epidemiological situation and, therefore, prevents the management of the epidemic response “, he concludes.
Peak before confinement
Likewise, the study maintains that when the first confinement was decreed, on March 15, 2020, “daily infections had already reached their peak . ” Similarly, on March 28, when all non-essential economic activity was suspended, “daily infections had already reached that peak at least 10 days earlier in most autonomous communities.”
In this sense, the study highlights the different containment measures that were implemented at the regional level just before the Spanish Government dictated the confinement at the national level. “In general, the autonomous communities that first pushed the Rt -speed of spread of the virus- below 1, coincide with those that implemented containment measures earlier. The most prominent example is the Community of Madrid,” he says.
The authors also talk about the role of individual awareness of the population, “a factor whose consideration is crucial.” According to the conclusions of their work, this is one of the main reasons that explain why the Rt began to decrease between March 10 and 13, before the national confinement was decreed. However, they do not ignore that the first containment measures were taken from March 9 and the reduction in mobility began around March 10.
Government response “two weeks late”
The main author, Àlex Arenas, assures that his research group derived last year “four reports to the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa , via Miguel Hernán (epidemiologist who advised the Government in the first wave), from which the president Pedro Sánchez decided the total confinement at least two weeks late. ”
This expert also got in touch with the president of the Generalitat at that time, Quim Torra , and the ministers of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó , and the Interior, Miquel Buch, who “from minute one understood it and asked for confinement one day after knowing” the data. “Minister Illa and Fernando Simón, with even more precise information that they required of us, took two more weeks,” he said.