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New method including rapid tests could see Rt rate soar

Current official figure at 1.22, but could rise to 1.45 or 1.50 with new calculations

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16 December 2020 11:26 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

A new method to calculate the Covid-19 transmission rate, or Rt, could be introduced shortly and could see this figure soar.

This is what the Catalan public health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon, said on Wednesday in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio broadcaster.

He explained that the current official data only takes into account PCR tests, and since its results can take up to 72 hours to come out, the Rt rate is subsequently outdated by three days.

Indeed, on Wednesday the declared transmission rate was 1.22, but Argimon said that this was the situation three days ago. According to him, taking into account the antigen rapid tests would see the figure be "more up to date" and would rise to between 1.45 and 1.50.

"We are doing badly"

Argimon also admitted that Catalonia is nearing a third wave of Covid-19 transmissions, especially since the figures are growing again a week after the early December long bank holiday weekend.

"We are not doing well, and I would dare to say that we are doing badly," he said. 

  • "If we were a rich country, the decisions we would make would be different"

    Josep Maria Argimon · Public health secretary

According to Argimon, the current worsening of the pandemic is a result of an increase in mobility. He described the images of people flooding Barcelona's commercial streets looking for Christmas presents on December 5 and 8 as "striking". However, he said that there was no alternative to the progressive reopening plan launched on November 23.

"If we were a rich country, the decisions we would make would be different," he emphasized.

For him, authorities have to make a move very soon, but acting quickly is sometimes "difficult" for the public administration.

Indeed, the health minister Alba Vergés said later on Wednesday that restrictions will be tightened once again "no matter what" because the transmission rate remains above 1.

Christmas celebrations at risk?

Restrictions are set to be loosened further for the holidays if everything goes according to initial plans. However, now, 10 days before Christmas, there is some concern that going ahead with the planned relaxation of measures is not ideal given the current public health trends.

On Tuesday, Vergés also admitted that the figures "are not good."

When asked whether the Christmas exceptions should be withdrawn, she said: "If we have to act, we will do it, as we always have during this pandemic."

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, interim president Pere Aragonès repeatedly described the current situation as "bad," adding that it had become "extremely worrying" over the past few days in particular and that his administration would continue reminding people to be cautious. 

Meanwhile, Jessica Albiach of En Comú Podem told authorities to put in place restrictions if needed but urged them to palliate their effects with economic aid.

"If more restrictions are needed then so be it, but alongside restrictions, there must also be economic aid because otherwise, it is unsustainable," she said. "Spend whatever may be needed."

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