Massive self-sampling tests in the areas most affected by covid

Health Department will initiate periodic tests among the under-70s in Girona, Lleida and Central Catalonia

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Residents of Rubí queuing to undergo a mass screening to see which people are infected.

BarcelonaGovernment will ease travel restrictions throughout Catalonia, but it does so when the epidemiological and healthcare situation is asymmetrical territorially. Lleida, Central Catalonia and Girona are the three areas with a more unstable situation, since it is where more cases are being registered, as well as a slight upturn in hospitals admissions. Despite the differences, the authorities do not plan to carry out "surgical" measures or apply specific restrictions in the most affected areas. Instead, they will screen population on a regular basis (every fifteen days) with self-sampling kits.

The Catalan Minister of Health, Alba Vergés, has said that surveillance and epidemiological monitoring will be intensified and, therefore, Public Health will launch a new wave of population screening in areas with a "higher than average incidence to corner the virus". "We want to put the focus on Lleida and Terra Alta, where we are tracing several outbreaks, and so we will continue to carry out screenings to cut the chains of transmission as quickly as possible," explained Vergés.

From next week, the Health Department will launch a screening strategy based on a system of voluntary self-sampling: anybody can decide to be tested and take their own sample. The plan will target the population under the age of 70 who have not yet received the vaccine. "Citizens will go to their primary care center (CAP), where it will be very simple: they will register, collect their self-sample kit, do the test at home and then return it to the CAP," said Ramentol.

The Catalan screening policy began last summer with the arrival of Josep Maria Argimon to the Secretariat of Public Health and since then has evolved from mass PCR testing in cities, neighbourhoods and even apartment blocks where it was feared that the circulation of the coronavirus was running amok. This service is very similar to the early detection of colon cancer, where pharmacies provided materials to the population to take a self-sample PCR. This model is the one that will now be deployed, albeit with some changes.

15,000 tests a day

DThe The Department plans to do 15,000 tests a day taking advantage of the analysis capacity that the four reference laboratories of Catalonia have. The screenings will be serial: the citizen will be summoned to repeat the test every fifteen days until the department decides to end the screening in the area. According to the secretary, this strategy "will not affect the nurses' schedules," but will be administered by covid managers.

It has been decided to distribute these kits in health centres because they have been the teams that have already coordinated mass screenings in several universities and already have the kit and logistics prepared. This does not mean, according to the Secretary General of Health, Marc Ramentol, that pharmacies have been discarded as dispensers of these self-sample kits.