Madrid and Catalonia coincide, this time, in their containment measures against the coronavirus: both communities want pharmacies to detect new cases of coronavirus by performing antigen tests. Epidemiologists, however, are suspicious of this way of containing the disease and argue that the tests have to be carried out in “safe environments” and, furthermore, with this validation, data will not be counted, the analysis of which is key to studying the progress of the pandemic in this second wave.
Ayuso’s bet for months
The president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, turns to the European Union again to try to carry out one of the measures that she wants to implement in the fight against the pandemic: be able to perform antigen tests in pharmacies in the region. They are, remember, 2,800 farm workshopsacetic within reach of almost any Madrilenian. After not authorizing the possibility of the Spanish Medicines Agency, the head of the regional Executive has decided, to validate these tests, to send a letter to the President of the European Commission, Úrsula van der Leyen.
This request from the president of Madrid, who has been asking for permission to carry out these tests in the 2,800 pharmaceutical offices for almost two months, comes after the statements of the regional vice president, Ignacio Aguado, who today insisted on his wish that «all Madrid residents have had an antigen test done before Christmas arrives and get together with their families. In addition, you have indicated that you expect these tests are done for free.
The Catalan government is also preparing a “massive” testing strategy that will give a central role to the community pharmacies. As detailed this Tuesday by the Government spokesperson, Meritxell Budó, at a press conference, The Generalitat has already purchased eight million antigen tests with the intention that apothecaries help to screen the population for the presence of coronavirus. However, these tests have yet to reach Catalonia – they will presumably do so in a phased manner – and the executive also has pending the task of preparing a “framework document” that sets the conditions for taking the tests.
From the Government they promise that they will use any tool they have at their disposal to take control of the pandemic, which has been slowing down the rate of expansion in the community for weeks. However, acknowledge that to involve pharmacies prior authorization from the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products will be necessary (Agemed), which has not authorized Ayuso in two months. Likewise, they point out that the case detection strategy must continue to prioritize PCR tests, so antigen tests performed in pharmacies will have a “complementary” role.
The suspicion of epidemiologists and health workers
However, both scientists and nursing associations agree on the threat posed by abandoning the registry of PCRs that are performed. In the opinion of both groups, these data allow us to study how the disease evolves in order to subdue it and without them, “we take steps backwards.” The spokesman for the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology, Julio García, affirms that “the easier it is to do the test, the more data is lost.”
María José García, spokesperson for the Satse Nursing Union, insists that the tests have to be carried out by a health professional and, in addition, it must be done in a safe environment. From the Spanish Society for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology they also pronounce on rapid antigen tests, since pharmacies can become a source of contagion: “taking samples is a time of high risk.”
Catalan fiasco with previous proposals
The Generalitat has decided to knock on the door of Catalan pharmacies after the fiasco of your previous proposal to close the pandemic: that secondary school students (ESO and baccalaureate) “Self-conduct” coronavirus tests in institutes of the community. This idea, raised at the beginning of the month and nuanced later, was criticized en bloc by teachers, parents, doctors and experts, who regretted the intention of handing over to educational centers the task of detecting the virus and monitoring cases to give air to an almost overwhelmed primary care.
For its part, the Community of Madrid has performed more than 3 million tests since the pandemic began and currently between 170,000 and 200,000 tests are performed weekly, according to official data from the regional executive. They understand that massive testing and rapid diagnosis “are one of the key factors in managing the second wave.”
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