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Raúl Ortiz de Lejarazu Leonardo, University of Valladolid

Neither imprisonment, nor summer, nor the compulsory nature of masks have succeeded in getting rid of SARS-CoV-2. It is difficult for us to achieve this, it is a virus that has the will to stay. However, we can live with it and get it not to run our lives, or at least not as much as it currently does.

Some countries, including some with different political regimes, have succeeded in reducing, minimizing or minimize virus circulation among his compatriots, showing that this SARS-CoV-2 not only does not distinguish between people but also between political or religious beliefs. It only understands behaviors and opportunities.

Respiratory-transmitted viruses, like the “sapiens”, like socialization pushed to its limits, they only recognize the opportunities for contagion. Therefore, this Christmas we must not be complicit in this game.

So what’s the secret to domesticating it until the vaccine makes our lives more bearable? The answer is: modulate our relationships and combine them with other measures. A measure simple to say and uncomfortable to respect.

The Swiss cheese strategy

Australian virologist Ian M. Mackay popularized a theory called “Swiss cheese strategy”. According to him, the only possible way to contain future pandemic waves would be to apply different measures, admitting that none are perfect.

Then the same would happen by putting together several slices of Eemental Swiss cheese (the one with the internal bubbles): These measures, like cheese, would have “certain holes” through which the virus could pass. But by applying several at the same time, it would be more difficult for these holes to coincide and the virus would be kept at bay to avoid contagion.

Today we know that the harsh confinement that Spain went through, which some leaders have bragged about, produced results similar to those achieved other countries which had less cruel confinements than ours, when combined with other measures that made them more bearable and less harmful to citizens.

Adaptation of the “Swiss Cheese” model from Virology Down Ander. Wikimedia Commons / Ian M MacKay, CC BY

After a year of the pandemic, citizens know very well what to do and what not to do to avoid the virus. To those measures that depend on us, the cheese strategy calls them “personal responsibilities”. Among them, the use of a mask, the reduction of the time spent in crowded places or the physical safety distance between us. These are all good examples of such responsibilities.

But on their own, they are not enough to reduce infections. It is also necessary to combine them with others called “shared responsibilities”. This is where movement restrictions, curfews, population tests and restrictions on public spaces come in.

This is because it is a new virus that is added to the previous ones and can have different scenarios, some better than others. We already have over 120 respiratory viruses, some of which are quite serious. We don’t need another in the respiratory infections community concert.

In this context, Christmas comes after a second pandemic wave. It is expensive to reduce it but Spain, it must be said, has found the way better than other countries.

Empathy with health workers

However, we still have a high number of infections. The percentage of ICU beds blocked by covid-19 patients determines other hospital surgical and medical protocols. The number of occupied beds in hospitals can make the syndrome exhaustion or Burnout, which literally means “to burn”.

Doctors, nurses and health workers might interpret this as an attempt to empty the sea with a plastic bucket and make the springtime cheers, along with the carefree Christmas, unnecessary.

Imagine the coming Christmas Eve in all the toilets and intensive care hospital wards far from theirs. Supporting people with covid-19 during difficult times. Our behavior and the declining contagion numbers will be your best Christmas present.

Distance is the key to all prevention measures. It would be enough on its own to suddenly stop the pandemic. However, advanced societies, due to technology, labor and customs, cannot afford to maintain a permanent physical distance. Or at least not for the time it takes to stop the transmission of the virus.

“Nothing happens until something moves,” Albert Einstein said. This Christmas they will put all of the above to the test and also know it in advance. If we only comply ad pedem literam (literally) provisions or standards, say “shared”, will not suffice and we will have another rebound at the end of January.

Stop the virus from celebrating this holiday too

Therefore, these Christmas 2020 must be different, with a personal responsibility that must be added to the official regulations to achieve this more necessary security. We must try not to give more opportunities to the virus and reduce the number of infections and deaths during the next holidays and the next months.

Christmas is one of the most deeply rooted traditions in our culture. He goes beyond his Christian roots and transforms the Western world for a few days into an occasion for close coexistence, massive gatherings and effusive family disinhibition.

All of this creates opportunities that will lead to new infections. I would ask the elderly not to sacrifice their health for the caresses of their grandchildren and children. For young people, don’t risk their parents’ health by hiding inappropriate behavior before family gatherings. No one can know the first few days they are infected, but they can remember risky behavior. Take care of yourself to take care of others.

Social security bubbles can build before the upcoming holidays, limiting the number of social contacts the week before Christmas and Christmas, increasing protection measures and personal behavior and limiting our family “capacity” to minimum security.

In the latter case, you can resort to a diagnostic test as when traveling to other countries. In short, we don’t have to invite covid-19 to our home this Christmas.

Raúl Ortiz de Lejarazu Leonardo, Scientific Advisor, National Influenza Center of Valladolid. Professor of microbiology, University of Valladolid

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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