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Spain to move from treating COVID-19 as a pandemic to an endemic illness

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By Euronews  with AP
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A medical staff member prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, at San Pedro Hospital in Logrono, northern Spain, Tuesday, Jan. 18. 2022.
A medical staff member prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, at San Pedro Hospital in Logrono, northern Spain, Tuesday, Jan. 18. 2022.   -   Copyright  Alvaro Barrientos / AP

Spain has suggested it wants to change the way it monitors the pandemic in order to return to normal life by no longer seeing it as a pandemic, but as an endemic illness such as an ordinary cold virus.

At a joint news conference following a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Madrid on Monday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the Spanish government was exploring how and when the management of the COVID-19 pandemic would shift to the management of the coronavirus as an endemic illness.

The country has seen its COVID-19 fatality rate fall from an initial 13% to 1%, and according to Sánchez "the virus is no longer so deadly".

The move would mean that Spanish health authorities would look upon the coronavirus like influenza, treating it as endemic.

However, for Dr. Jeffrey Lazarus, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), the "end is not in sight yet".

"I think this is more about politics than public health. After each wave, they make a new suggestion. Earlier it was the outdoor face masking, now it is to stop counting and stop testing," Lazarus told Euronews.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization continues to urge countries to be cautious because, despite the fact that 10 billion doses have been administered globally, a vast number of people still remain unvaccinated.

"Governments in power need to think about how they are going to handle the next election but they also need to really take a public health approach. Restrictions can be lessened when cases go down, it doesn't mean that they might not be reinstalled if cases, and particularly hospitalisations, go up if there's a new variant or if we find that we need an additional booster," Lazarus added.

Downgrading the coronavirus to flu-like status is expected to be met with resistance from both Germany and France, where vaccine uptake remains lower than in Spain, where more than 90% of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated and 85% of those over 60 have had their booster dose.