The government in Spain ended the Covid-19 state of emergency on May 9. The country’s inoculation campaign is accelerating. And Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recently predicted that 70 percent of the population of 47 million would be vaccinated by mid-August.
But amid the good news, some medical experts in Spain have urged the authorities to bolster access to testing, which they say remains essential in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
There has been a debate in Spain over whether pharmacists, in addition to doctors, should be able to conduct tests. According to the Spanish General Council of Pharmacists, only 790 of the country’s 22,100 pharmacies can conduct tests.
Jesús Aguilar, the president of the council, said that in the few regions where pharmacists had been allowed to test, the outcome had been excellent.
“It is a shame that the administrations have not sped up this collaboration, which has been a unanimous request from citizens,” he noted.
The Spanish government has justified limiting access to testing in pharmacies by portraying them as places where the virus could spread if infected patients mingle with other customers.
Other Spanish medical associations have also called for tests to be limited to health centers. Some doctors have warned that in-home testing could make it harder to trace the disease and could give people a false sense of security if they test negative, because test kits can be misused.
Javier Segura del Pozo, an epidemiologist who is also the deputy president of the public health association of Madrid, compared the Spanish debate about coronavirus testing to that which followed the introduction of the morning-after contraceptive pill.
“In general, I believe that the population should have access to diagnostics without always having to go through the medical profession, but it is also important to have people understand that a Covid-19 test is not in itself a prevention measure, which is how many people seem to view it,” he said.
Many private clinics have been conducting coronavirus tests, independent of their normal field of expertise.
Clinicas Pronatal, a Madrid clinic that normally focuses on fertility treatments, said that it had hired 14 more workers, doubling its staff, since the start of the pandemic to cope with the demand for Covid-19 tests.