Rapid tests to be used for Covid-19 positives' close contacts instead of PCR

Health department allows for medicine and nursing students as well as retired professionals to be hired again

A nurse preparing a rapid test on October 21, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons)
A nurse preparing a rapid test on October 21, 2020 (by Àlex Recolons) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 3, 2020 11:33 AM

Rapid tests will be introduced in the Catalan public health system for close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19, thus replacing PCR tests – this measure aims to avoid over-saturating health centers and labs, and get the results quicker.

From now on PCR tests will be mostly used in neighborhoods and schools where transmissions rise sharply, as revealed in a document the Catalan government sent to health professionals and first published by Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.

The reasons given by authorities are "the increase of the number of cases in the community" recently seen during the second wave.

The health department says that a negative result in a rapid test does not exempt the person from quarantining as a close contact without symptoms.

The same document also reads that secondary school students can extract their own samples from their nose – as long as they are monitored by teachers.

Students considered close contacts are recommended to have PCR tests by nasal smear, instead of nasopharyngeal secretions – standard PCR tests are recommended for primary school children in groups with at least one positive case.

Teachers against monitoring tests

Catalonia's main education unions sided against teachers' supervision of PCR tests being carried out. 

"Under no circumstances can we tolerate it," said Xavier Díez of USTEC union in an interview with ACN.

"We urge teachers not to perform tests to protect both themselves and students," he added. CCOO and ASPEC groups are also against the measure. 

Students and retired professionals to be hired

The second wave of Covid-19 has also forced the authorities to hire students and retired professionals, as was the case between March and June. 

Specifically, on Saturday, Catalonia's official gazette (DOGC) allowed the health system to offer contracts to medicine and nursery students in the last year of their studies, as well as medical professionals who graduated in countries outside the EU, and also retired professionals under 71 years of age and without conditions that would put them at risk in case of transmission.

Former health professionals will primarily work from home, and if in person, they will work in a primary care center or in public health services.

As for students, those who are allowed to temporarily join the system are those who specialize in the medical, pharma, psychology, health science and nursery fields.