Misc 07/12/2020

Health advises against taking a quick test "as a passport" to Christmas meals

Calls for hygiene measures to be kept also in privacy to avoid outbreaks at parties

Mariona Ferrer I Fornells
3 min

Madrid"We can't put a police officer in every house, but we don't have to." This is how the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, expressed it on Monday at the presentation of the state campaign to raise awareness in the face of the first Christmas under the pandemic. The Spanish government will maintain random controls on mobility this holiday season - as is already being done during the Immaculate Conception holiday - but is confident that it will be the families who will enforce the restrictions that have been established by the autonomous communities. The Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol, has expressed himself in the same vein, saying that "you can fool the police, but not the virus".

Under the slogan "The best gift is taking care of ourselves", the Ministry of Health has displayed a spot in which a family can be seen complying with all the security measures for Christmas dinner: washing hands with soap and water, ventilating closed spaces, safety distance - the two family units eat with the landing door open, without mixing - and use of a mask whenever possible. Illa believes that the current measures are "already very drastic" and has considered that this is not the time to open the debate on expanding them. In this sense, he recalled that with the communities they agreed "not to move from the autonomous community itself" except in the case of family regroupings or people who are close to them.

The minister did not want to go into the small print of what exactly are "close persons", the term that the agreement of the inter-territorial health council includes to make an exception to mobility between autonomous communities this holiday season, and he relied at all times on personal responsibility. As an example, he recalled the case of a bus in Santander in which passengers refused to start the journey if one of them was not wearing a mask and at the end the authorities were called to take him away. "The big weapon for the restrictions to be carried out is the awareness that with covid-19 you don't play games. Because one citizen's failure to comply with the measures affects the rest," he said.

Alert on self-diagnostic tests

As for the possibility of having a test before Christmas dinner, Illa has warned that this is not a guarantee of not catching or spreading the disease. In particular, he has sent out a warning about the new coronavirus self-diagnosis tests that the European Commission has authorised and which pharmacies can therefore market as long as they are done at home and the patient has a prescription from a doctor - even though in practice many pharmacies are selling them without a prescription. The minister has called for "prudence" because these are tests which, in the event of a positive result, must then be validated by a PCR in a health centre. "These tests are not a passport for not complying with prevention measures," said the Director General of Public Health, Pilar Aparicio.

However, the Health Ministry plans to decide this week whether it will finally allow pharmacies to test for antigens, the tool that has recently proved to be most effective in controlling infections because they are much quicker and cheaper than PCRs. When asked about this issue, Illa has detailed that they are studying the proposals made by different communities led by the Community of Madrid and that, after requesting different reports, he hopes "to be able to make a decision this week if possible".

Ramentol has advised against the use of rapid antigen tests "as a passport for a family meal" at Christmas that would rule out the possibility of infection. In a press conference, he explained that while the test is a great diagnostic tool, it is also true that one must know how to use it correctly. In any case, the number two in the department has insisted that the current strategy of the Department is to strengthen the active search for cases with screening campaigns, reports Marta Rodriguez Carrera.