Society 18/07/2021

Demand for private covid tests surges due to increase in contagions and saturation of health centres

Many centers have increased number of tests between 20% and 40%

3 min
Two health professionals doing a PCR test to a patient at the Gothic HEAD of Barcelona

GironaThe explosion in infections detected in recent weeks has not only been noted in health centres and hospitals; private centres offering antigen and PCR tests have seen demand increase exponentially. "There has been a very significant increase, between 30% and 40% more", commercial director of Teletest, Francesc Mestres, states. Dr Àngels Fortuño, manager at Eldine laboratory, corroborates it: "Every day we have people at our door, in a hurry, asking us to do a test. Whereas before private individuals represented 20% of the tests we do, they are now between 40% and 45%"

The centres began to register a growth in the last two weeks of June. "The week of 28 we began to notice a significant acceleration, and now in July has multiplied exponentially," says Dr Agustí Vendrell, manager of Global Medical Laboratory Salou. He adds that the graph of requested tests has been following almost the same upward trend as infections in Catalonia and it grew even more after the Health Dpt announced it would no longer test close contacts. "There are people who tell us that they have been referred by the Health Department's hotline, as health centres no longer do tests. Until now we could test everyone who came, but a few weeks ago we had to ask them to return the next day, and this had never happened to us since the beginning of the pandemic," Fortuño explains.

Young and without symptoms

Most individuals who request a test are close contacts or believe they could have been infected after a party or celebration, or another risk situation. The profile of applicants responds to all ages, but especially the under-30s, who usually have no symptoms or only mild symptoms but have very high viral loads.

"Health Centres only test you if you have symptoms, and many people prefer to do a PCR or a test because they want to know if they have been infected," says Mestres. Others, as Vendrell points out, want to do it because their child was at a summer camps with other children where a case was detected; or because they have been sharing tourist homes with other families or friends, and suddenly they have learnt that one of them has tested positive. "There are people who find that there is too slow a response from the public health system, or who are worried because no one has called them. And lately there is also the perception that primary care is overwhelmed and people come much more to analysis centres"

Fortuño adds that "there are private individuals who have a certain feeling of insecurity". "Until now, public health used to test everybody, but now they don't, and people are afraid of going back to work or of infecting other relatives and they prefer to clear the doubt". This has also led to a certain saturation of their laboratories: "We deliver the results within the deadlines, but before we delivered them much earlier and now we only just meet them due to the increase in demand", says the commercial director of Teletest.

Tests for travelling

At the same time, they have also detected an increase in demand for PCRs or antigen tests for a different profile: those who want to travel, be it for holidays or work, or tourists who want to return to their countries of origin. "In the last week of June we had entire buses of young people who were leaving for their end-of-year trip and needed a negative test," says Fortuño. At Eldine laboratories they have also suffered the changes in criteria of countries such as France, which, since last week, requires travellers from Spain and Portugal to be have received both shots of the vaccine or show a negative PCR taken within the previous 24 hours, rather than 72 hours as up until now.

"Now we are also open on Saturday mornings to make it easier, but regulations are changing quickly in every country, and this also affects us". Of course, there are also users who test positive. In this case, the labs have to deal with the paperwork so they can receive a covid recovery certificate, which will allow them to travel once they have overcome the disease.

However, this laboratory in Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre warns that the delta variant is not only much more transmissible, but also gives more false negatives, according to ther experience in recent weeks. "It is negative because the machine does not detect the virus, but when we check the result we see small traces and warn the customer they have to retake the test. And, indeed, two days later, they test positive"

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