The Health Minister, Patrícia Gómez says she is confident that the gradual decrease in the number of cases of coronavirus provides hope for the future, but warned that people should not let their guard down just yet.
“The data is positive, we have seen it improve for a few days, the number of serious cases has decreased and so have hospitalisations,” she says. “We still have many resources for beds in hospitals and critical care units, but we are still tense in case an unexpected outbreak appears.”
The Health Minister says being aware of what was happening elsewhere in the world and taking immediate action has paid off in the Balearic Islands.
“When the severe phase began in Italy, we ordered respirators and got ahead of the game. Although this is a very fragile territory due to the number of arrivals from other countries, we have very localised infections. But the great work that has been done by Primary Care Professionals really helped and was crucial because many patients have been treated at home which has prevented the hospitals from collapsing.
Hundreds of Healthcare Professionals in the Balearic Islands have been infected with Covid-19 and critics blame the lack of protective clothing and materials.
“I am worried about these cases because I was being told that the workers had all the equipment they needed but the unions said otherwise. There have been mistakes in making this material available and that is our responsibility. It is a very contagious disease and I do worry about the Healthcare Professionals. It seems very unfair to me that a person doing their job gets infected and it's an issue that causes me a lot of stress. Materials arrived last week, which has improved the situation and more will come today, which I hope will remedy the situation,” said Minister Gómez.
She also insists that blame for the lack of equipment should not be laid at the door of the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
“The material is arriving, but we must also understand the situation of the Government. The Balearic Islands do not have the involvement of other communities and sometimes it is not easy to understand the uniqueness and logistical complications of the Islands. That is why we have sought material through our suppliers and directly from China,” she explains.
The Central Government has made all of the major decisions during the coronavirus pandemic and the Health Minister says it's important to be able to look at the bigger picture in order to come up with a successful strategy for the whole country.
"This disease is unpredictable and decisions that work today won’t work tomorrow. Political decisions have not been made here but technical ones have that are supported by the Scientific community. I think it is good to report in a coordinated way, but you have to take into account the particulars of each place. But it was very difficult to predict anything in advance, it seemed impossible to reach the level of contagion that we now have and because of that, decisions changed.
Time and again critics have demanded that everyone be given the quick test for Covid-19, or at the very least, all of the Healthcare Professionals.
“We have already carried out 20,000 quick tests for coronavirus and they are a good way to find out who has passed on the disease, because it means they are immunised, although we don’t know for how long. It would be a good move to have all Primary Care Professionals tested.
Experts are adamant that the number of infections is much higher than the numbers being reported but the Patrícia Gómez says it’s impossible to clarify the data.
“That's what they say, but they are still just projections. A highly reputed Economist from the Canary Islands insists that one percent of the population there could be infected. We are talking about between 7,000 and 10,000 people and the official figure is 1,293 positive cases, but it is very difficult to know. I am sure that we have managed to control it, even although we are a fragile territory because so many people come from outside the Balearic Islands.
Despite the fact that Francina Armengol, President of the Balearic Islands has closed off the Islands there is still some confusion about how things should proceed.
“President Armengol has asked us to start preparing a scientific document and we already have several experts who will help with this work. It would be interesting for us if there were differences in each territory, but we will have to wait and see.
Asked whether there was a chance that people within the Balearic Islands could be given more freedom of movement while the ports and airports remain closed, Minister Gómez said that was possible but there would be limitations.
“We are working on a gradual decrease of restrictions within the Islands, first for children, who are coping with confinement better than we thought they would. Chronic patients who are prescribed physical exercise may also be released and then the next step would to open shops, keeping social distance in place to assure safety and hygiene," she said.
The Health Minister added that reopening the ports and airports in the Balearic Islands will be much more complicated.
“I think that we will have to come up with a Global Strategy to control people from the beginning and keep control of them once they are here. We do health checks on people when they arrive and we’re already doing 6,000 a day with subsequent follow ups, but checking 60,000 or 600,000 arrivals during high season is unthinkable and that is one of the issues being studied.
Health Minister, Patrícia Gómez says there’s a lot to be learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have found that emergencies have been reduced considerably, although the seriously ill continue to arrive and many emergencies have been addressed," she says, adding, "we also know that Primary Care is essential and that many problems can be solved without the need to travel.”