Catalan epidemiologist Oriol Mitjà is "worried" about the trends in the coronavirus outbreak in the Segrià. He admits the real situation in the western Catalonia county is "unknown" at present now due to a lack of data and a late start in gathering it. His primary concern, though, is based on the fact that the "chains of virus transmission are not under control" and in just a week there has been a sudden increase of more than 500 new cases.
Mitjà is in favor of strengthening the lockdown measures in the region centred on Lleida city, and ordering the 200,000 people in the zone to stay at home, instead of maintaining restrictions whose strongest aspect is the reinforcement of the perimeter. In statements to Catalunya Ràdio he said that with the current restrictions - which restrict unnecessary travel and social activities, but allow most internal movements for work purposes - "the only possible achievement is to stop the cases leaving the territory".
The mobility of the temporary workers employed in the region's agricultural industry has been an influential factor, according to Mitjà, because they live in precarious, "crowded" accommodation. As a result, claims Mitjà, the normal infection rate can be multiplied by a factor of three. To counteract the rapid transmission, he has called for an immediate mass testing programme.
(2/3) El retrat robot d’1 temporer – amb Covid i alta càrrega viral – que viu amuntegat a un barracó:— Oriol Mitjà (@oriolmitja) July 8, 2020
•Quant més alta és la càrrega viral (>10E8 virus/ul), més transmisió
•Cada cas infecta al 20% dels seus contactes, però en condicions d’amuntegament n’ infecta fins al 60-70%
"The situation in the Segrià is worrying: 500 cases per week, uncontrolled transmission chains, and 20,000 people (temporary workers) at high risk of transmitting the infection. We should think about: a massive testing programme on the temporary workers and imposing a stay-at-home lockdown."
"A typical temporary worker who has Covid and a high viral load and lives crammed into a shack:
-The higher the viral load (> 10E8 virus/ul), the greater the transmission
-Each case usually infects 20% of its contacts, but in overcrowded conditions it is up to 60-70%"— Oriol Mitjà
Also, bearing in mind the expected high number of asympomatic cases, he concludes that in the Segrià scenario mass testing is required:
(3/3)— Oriol Mitjà (@oriolmitja) July 8, 2020
•Només el 20% dels contactes infectats desenvolupen símptomes, malgrat que el 80% asimptomàtics poden transmetre el virus.
➡️La cerca de contactes no serà suficient per trobar a tots els asimptomàtics, segurament caldrà fer testatge massiu dels temporers.
"Only 20% of contacts that are infected develop Covid-19 symptoms, but the asymptomatic 80% can also spread the virus. Therefore, contact tracing will not be sufficient to find all the asymptomatics, and it will probably be necessary to carry out massive tests on the temporary workers."— Oriol Mitjà
The award-winning Catalan researcher has warned repeatedly that there is a great risk of a second Covid-19 wave in the autumn and that we are not fully prepared it will be "much more serious". “We’ve experienced only a small fraction of what the virus can do,” he said. Mitjà pointed out that weather factors and safety measures have contributed to the virus “receding” and stressed the importance of doing the right thing during the summer so that the second outbreak starts later.