Navas de San Antonio has 328 registered residents, although in normal times it swells up at weekends, during the summer and when the town throws it annual party to honour San Antonio de Padua in mid-June.
But this year, the lockdown imposed across Spain to control the spread of coronavirus means that the festivities are cancelled.
The mayor of the town decided that rather than carry them over, the town could put the funds reserved for the fiesta to better use and test the entire population for covid-19.
“I’ve been mayor for 20 years and one thing I’ve learnt is that the most important thing is to prioritise well-being of residents,” explained Luis Miguel Pérez of the conservative Popular Party (PP).
Each test will cost the council €60 and will be carried out by a private health clinic Los Tilos in nearby provincial capital Segovia who will set up a testing station in the village over the weekend of June 13when the town would usually be celebrating its patron saint.
The town hall in Navas de San Antonio. Photo: Ayuntamiento
The initiative follows that of the Madrid dormitory town of Torrejon de Ardoz which last week began mass testing residents for the coronavirus against government guidelines.
Spain's government view — shared by many epidemiologists — is that mass testing of entire towns is indiscriminate and not the best use of resources.
There has also been concern in the media of the danger of stoking “health populism” — whereby local authorities may feel compelled to outdo their neighbours in testing, although the initiative has been welcomed by residents in Torrejon, which suffered an outbreak of the virus in the early days of the health crisis.
In Navas de San Antonio, however, there has only been one suspected case of the coronavirus, in a resident who self-isolated as soon as symptoms were detected and has since fully recovered without confirming that it was covid-19 or spreading it to anyone else.