The Spanish government will limit the retail price of Covid antigen tests according to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Speaking to Cadena SER radio station earlier today, Sanchez also stated that the government plans to buy a total of 344,000 doses of Paxlovid, the Pfizer antiviral and oral drug this January, which reduces the chances of hospitalisation and death by 88%.
Last November the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the very first pill against the coronavirus, Molnupiravir. This was at the time when Pfizer announced that it was already working on its pill, after monopolising the vaccine market.
Paxlovid is aimed at adults who have ‘mild to moderate infection and are at high risk of their illness worsening’ and is most effective when taken during the early stages of COVID-19 before hospitalisation is needed.
The higher price of antigen tests in Spain during the sudden increase of the Omicron variant and the shortage of antigen tests in pharmacies have increased protests from consumer groups as well as opposing politicians, with many calling for them to be sold in supermarkets.
"The debate we had before and during the Christmas season was the supply of tests, there was a bottleneck," Sanchez continued in his interview "Now, we will get into the control of the tests' prices."
The Prime Minister also defended the Government's refusal to allow this type of test to only be sold in pharmacies and not in supermarkets. He also recalled that ‘the Executive has already included the VAT reduction of the tests in the package of fiscal measures that they approved a year ago and that caused the masks to have a super-reduced VAT of 4%.’
Sánchez also spoke of his refusal to make vaccination compulsory, a practice that is already being taken in other European countries, such as Italy. In reference to people who have decided not to have the vaccine Sánchez said it is "a mistake to elevate what are anecdotes to a category.”
The Prime Minister also recalled that more than 90% of the Spanish population have already completed their vaccination schedule and more than 80% of those aged over 60 years have also received their booster jab.
Sánchez also claimed that this data endorses his policy "of pedagogy and non-obligatory nature of measures that have found a positive response" among the population. "It is important to remind the unvaccinated that they have the right and the duty to protect themselves, but the civic behaviour of our fellow citizens has been exemplary,” he said.
Spain’s current infection rate, as measured over the past 14 days, rose to a new high of 2,723 cases per 100,000 people on Friday. That is more than ten times greater since the beginning of December.
The number of beds currently occupied in Intensive care units has reached 22.06 per cent, up from 8 per cent a month ago, but still less than half the peak of 43 per cent that was recorded a year ago.
As for the number of fatalities, Sánchez explained that the situation "is not that of a year ago, since the mortality rate has dropped from 13% in the first wave to 1% in the sixth, which will reach its maximum peak in the coming weeks.”
With the decline in deaths, Sánchez claimed that it may be time to use different parameters to track the pandemic. He also said that the “positive response” to vaccinations marks a possible change to the pandemic, “a flu” of Covid.
He also confirmed a report by El Pais newspaper that states that the authorities were considering monitoring the pandemic in a similar way they follow the flu, without recording every case or testing all symptomatic people.
Sánchez continued saying that “in the absence of confirmation from the ‘more advanced’ studies that already speak of a greater lightness of the omicron variant, despite its greater infectivity, we have the conditions so that little by little we begin to evaluate the evolution of the disease with different parameters”.
Image Credit: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa