SPAIN’S health experts have confirmed that the one million rapid tests kits to have arrived from China on Monday can only detect coronavirus (Covid-19) in patients who have been infected for five or six days. Therefore, these kits can’t be used as routine tests to accurately diagnose who has the disease, according to the health experts from the Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology (Seimc).
The only way to accurately find out if someone is infected with Covid-19 from day one is through a PCR test, which requires a swab from the patient by a trained medical expert as well as analysis in a laboratory, which is more laborious and time-consuming, advises Seimc. This comes as a huge blow to Spain, given that the country’s death toll has exceeded 10,000 today and the number of people infected has risen to more than 110,000.
Unlike the tests brought from Shenzhen Bioeasy (which had to be returned to China last week), “these new tests do work,” confirmed Seimc. But it suggests that Spain’s health departments and hospitals only use these new tests on people coming into emergency who have had coronavirus symptoms for more than five or six days, to actually confirm whether they have the virus or not.
The World Health Organisation has recommended that countries carry out mass testing to find out the extent of the disease, and use the information to halt it strategically and quickly. But most rapid coronavirus tests that countries like Spain have been buying are still largely unproven. As many companies have only recently developed them, many health experts are now warning governments to hold off on buying big supplies until it’s clearer which, if any, of the diagnostic tools work best. Spain’s experience reveals that it’s neither quick or easy to ramp up testing when both high-quality kits and properly trained staff are in severe short supply.