The Christmas holidays have provided the perfect breeding ground for a variant that is already the most contagious virus circulating in the world.  | Pilar Pellicer

If the average number of daily cases of coronavirus infections in the week of December 27 was 1,767, this figure has grown to 3,644 in the following week. This is what is known as the New Year's Eve effect although, at this point and after yesterday's notification of a new record of 4,659 positives in a single day, "Christmas, New Year's Eve and even Epiphany come together," said the spokesman for the regional committee of infectious diseases, Javier Arranz. "We are seeing the direct effect of the contagions, there are many mild cases but they are symptomatic and, in general, manifest themselves after three or four days," adds the head of the Microbiology laboratory of Son Espases, Antonio Oliver. However, it is not a guideline, "fifteen days later you will not develop symptoms, but in a week there is still a risk," he adds. The fact that quarantines have been reduced from ten to seven days is due, according to Dr. Oliver, to the need not to collapse, "not because you stop infecting".

The omicron variant, which has changed the pandemic landscape in a few weeks, suggests that the peak of this sixth wave will not arrive until the end of the month, "the Sant Antoni or Sant Sebastià fiestas in Mallorca will lead to more social gatherings, so we must be realistic," admits Arranz. However, there will be a moment when the virus will stop, "it reaches a threshold of contagion in which it is self-limiting," adds microbiologist Oliver. The extent remains to be seen. According to the WHO, in the next six to eight weeks, half of Europeans could be infected. "Such an impact would be bad because it is very little time and the healthcare system will have a hard time," reflects Dr. Javier Arranz. "It could happen, so we should not trivialise a disease with this impact," he adds. Eyes are already on hospital pressure because although admissions in relation to infections have fallen sharply, the evolution of this sixth wave is the same as the previous ones and is already beginning to register a compromised situation with signs of worsening. Salut reported on Tuesday 311 hospitalizations in plant and 76 patients in ICU, figures comparable to those at the beginning of the pandemic, when the entire population was confined.

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Son Espases ICU

"We have levelled with the first wave and the problem is that we are still rising, we will have to wait until the end of January because there will be more contagions with their percentage of admissions, and of these, 10% will end up in the ICU," explains the head of this service, Julio Velasco. "The situation is not very good. We have 44 beds, 30 of which are occupied by patients with COVID-19 and 13 by other pathologies. Every day is an important struggle to make things as good as possible and to ensure that our colleagues have resources," he acknowledges. And not only because of the number of patients admitted, but also because of the lack of personnel. At the moment there are no infections among the doctors in his department, but there is a shortage of about twenty nurses out of the 150 or so on the staff.

In the ICU, the influence of the delta variant continues and only two critical patients were infected with Omicron. "The problem is that their evolution is long, about three weeks, because many need mechanical ventilation for long enough for the COVID-19 pneumonia to resolve," explained Dr. Velasco. With vaccination, he assures, the severity of the patients is less severe. "Many do not need sedation and ventilation; a high-flow oxygen mechanism is sufficient. They evolve more quickly, approximately two weeks, but it has been proven that all of them have significant muscle dysfunction and need rehabilitation before going to the ward, which is why it takes longer," adds Velasco, who still expects to see new admissions.