The researcher from the Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics, Àlex Arenas, is one of the signatories of the document alongside Oriol Mitjà
A group of 62 scientists from all over Spain have published a letter in the scientific journal The Lancet, in which they ask the Spanish Government to implement “total closure” of the country in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The document is signed by the epidemiologist Oriol Mitjà, the physicist and researcher from the URV’s Department of Computer Engineering and Mathematics Àlex Arenas, the lecturer Xavier Rodó, the CSIC researcher Aurelio Tobias, Joe Brew and the CSIC physicist José M. Benlloch. In the article, the experts express their “concern” for the “limited” actions taken by the central Government which, although in the right direction, are not sufficient to prevent the saturation of the health system.
They say that they want to express their “concern about the limited capacity of actions taken by the Spanish Government to successfully control the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and end the exponential growth phase of new cases.” They explain that the various models in existence calculate the future spread of SARS-CoV-2 and they all predict that there will be a considerable rise in the number of new cases over the coming weeks. They warn that the saturation of the health system may last until 24 April. “We urge the Spanish Government to implement as swiftly as possible more drastic measures to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the Spanish population.”
Bearing in mind that many of the new cases of coronavirus will require admission to an intensive care unit, the experts describe three scenarios: the first places no restrictions on mobility; the second places partial restrictions, as in Spain; and the third scenario imposes a total restriction for everybody except the essential services. Their predictions suggest that in the current circumstances in which 30% of the population are still travelling to work every day, the public services will not be able to bear the enormous number of serious cases and will be overwhelmed. This, in combination with the aging of the Spanish population, will cause considerable mortality.
In their letter, they suggest such measures as establishing regional categories according to the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants and implementing a package of multiple interventions adapted to the seriousness of each category. In the most serious category – more than 100 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants in the past 7 days – they recommend citizen lockdown and a complete shutdown of the region, except for essential services for a minimum period of 15-21 days. At the present time, this category includes La Rioja, Madrid, Navarre, the Basque Country, Castile-La Mancha and Castile and León, and Catalonia. And they add that all non-essential inter-regional land, sea, and air transport must be totally interrupted for at least 15 days.
They also demand the banning of all travel and all non-basic economic activities, together with the intensified use of diagnostic tests in suspected cases, and they point out the urgent need to establish a purchasing and supply channel for personal protective equipment, which is currently “insufficient for health personnel who are highly exposed to and prone to contagion”. This is particularly important because recent studies have found that SARS-CoV-2 can be spread by contamination of eyelashes and hair.
They warn that the proposed suppression policies will not mean the end of CoVID-19 in Spain in the first month and that a robust surveillance system capable of collecting and reporting epidemiological data down to the individual or household level needs to be created. To this end, a universal mobile application must be developed so that everyone can report the symptoms they have and the diagnostic capacity must be increased so that all individuals with symptoms can be tested and isolated.
The group of experts also beg the Spanish Government to allow the scientific community to access the outbreak data, which would make their job easier, and to create support groups that would give “a comprehensive, objective, and transparent scientific response.”