Spain’s health ministry has announced that it will roll out the mass testing of an initial 30,000 families in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The test will allow the health ministry to get a better picture of the actual number of infections as it estimates that around 90% or 15 in every 16 people infected have not been officially registered.
As of April 8, the ministry reports that a total of 146,690 people have been infected to date, however, the numbers are thought to be much higher, stretching into the millions.
The initiative which has been designed by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) will see over 62,000 people tested over a three-week period beginning next week.
The approach will aim at assessing the gap between the official numbers and the real spread of the virus so that a solution can be implemented to help contain the virus and prevent further contagion.
Professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health and former general secretary of the Health Ministry José Martínez Olmos has suggested that as many as 5% of the Spanish population may have been infected by the virus.
This would mean somewhere in the region of 2.35 Million citizens may have been infected or around 15 times the official figure.
It is thought that around 85% of cases will go undetected with the majority being asymptomatic or not displaying any symptoms.
Once testing has been completed and a more accurate picture is known, the government can then begin to gradually reduce the confinement measures which have been in place since March 14.
“It’s about getting as accurate a picture as possible by zone and with the greatest representation by gender and location. The ideal thing would be to have it neighbourhood by neighbourhood,” Martínez Olmos explained.
It is believed that rapid testing would be carried out on each family member with a follow-up PCR test taking place if the initial test came back negative. The process would then be repeated after 21 days.
The ISCIII would look to the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE) to determine which households and in which regions of the country would be tested first.
As the test would only require a pinprick test similar to those regularly carried out by diabetics, there would be no need for a healthcare professional to be present.
If anyone tested positive a decision would be made on whether to isolate them at home or at a public facility.
It comes as PM Pedro Sánchez requested that regional governments put together a list of infrastructures that could be used to isolate those who were infected to get the spread under control.