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During his public speech on Saturday, the 18th of April, the President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, declared that among his achievements in the fight against the Coronavirus, «we have already carried out 1 million PCR-type diagnostic tests, the most accurate, and we have increased testing from 20,000 to 40,000 people per day».
Although he is going to propose that the state of emergency could be extended until the 9th of May, Sánchez has also announced that «in May the de-escalation to phase 2 will begin», that is, «there will be different states of emergency», but not specifically saying how, apart that the confinement measures in each territory of Spain could vary depending on the cases of infection, and that since April 27th an agreement will be sought with the Regional communities to «let the children go out for a little while».
But, it seems that no one has realized – or stated publicly – that what we really should be worrying about is the time it is going to take to return to what Sánchez calls “new normality” (disturbing definition) if we take seriously the points of his speech where he talks specifically about how the Spanish government wants to concretely carry out the “de-escalation”.
Beyond his generic intention of gradually relaxing the state of emergency, declared to reassure Spanish people after a month of isolation, and after thanking them for being «the western citizens who have observed the limitations on mobility more rigorously», Sánchez says that «it is not possible to lift the general measures of confinement until completion of the WHO recommendations to carry out massive tests to control transmission and detect every case of infection». If we take his words literally, it stands to reason that the health system will have to carry out diagnostic tests on the entire population residing in Spain. And realistically, the test may need to be performed multiple times on each person, at least twice, because it should be repeated a second time, both for positives at first test, to check if they give negative test results after cure and isolation, and also for negatives at first diagnosis, after a time of potential exposure to the virus and the community at large.
There are approximately 47,000,000 people living in Spain. This means we would need at least 95,000,000 tests. At the current rate of 40,000 a day, the government and health system would need 2,375 days to complete the diagnosis of the entire population. Obviously, the time of the massive tests should be as fast as possible, so that the results can serve in the meantime to heal people and avoid other infections. But instead, according to Sánchez’s speech, with the current rate of tests, that he considered as achievements of his government, we will not be able to get out of confinement for 6 and a half years.
To watch and listen Pedro Sánchez’s full speech of 18th of April 2020:
Photo: Pool Moncloa / Borja Puig de la Bellacasa
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