Madrid region demands Covid-19 antigen testing for all

Authorities in the Madrid region are calling for the Spanish government to authorize pharmacies to carry out a mass antigen testing to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Madrid region demands Covid-19 antigen testing for all
Residents queue for antigen rapid tests in San Andres del Rabanedo, Leon province. Photo: AFP


The regional government insists a rapid test programme is needed to bring the pandemic under control in the capital.

Antigen kits are less precise than standard PCR tests but provide results within minutes, rather than the days needed to process a PCR test in a laboratory.

Both are swab tests diagnosing an active infection. Where PCR tests detect the virus’s genetic material, however, antigen tests detect specific proteins from it.

Antigen tests are faster and usually highly accurate, but there is an increased chance of false negative results and they are not as sensitive as molecular tests, particularly in the early days of infection.

PCR tests are slower but seen as the ‘gold standard’.

But for the conservative run Madrid region, which has often locked horns with Spain’s left-wing central government on coronavirus policy, the speed that comes with an antigen test is viewed as a key tool.

“Every day that passes without the Spanish government authorizing us to use pharmacies (to perform antigen tests) is a day we lose against the pandemic,” the region’s deputy chief Ignacio Aguadosaid in a press briefing on Wednesday.



“The aim has to be to reach as many Madrilenos as possible. If we are not able to reach all the people of Madrid before Christmas, we will have to ask the (health) minister why.”

But health emergency chief Fernando Simón has raised doubts over the request.

“We can’t envisage that someone with symptoms would go to a pharmacy to get the test done,” Simón said in a televised briefing on Monday.

“There’s a risk that the (pharmacy) staff, by carrying out the tests, if they can do it, would get contaminated.”

The European Commission recommends that antigen tests are used to confirm coronavirus mostly on people already showing symptoms, saying that the kits were deemed less accurate in detecting the virus in asymptomatic cases.



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Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon.