“Ugh… I don’t know if I’m going to wait that long. How long is it? An hour and a half?” Sonia Mayor, 34, watches as 80 people, a long queue that turns the corner, separates her from the door of the Echevarne laboratories, in Barcelona. Behind her, a young Australian, Alex, who travels to his country on the 25th, confirms it: “I called and they told me there was a wait of about two hours. Two months ago I came and there were half the people.”
Private laboratories and clinics that offer PCR and antigen testing are doing their particular August in the days leading up to Christmas. In those that work without an appointment, such as Echevarne, it is confirmed by seeing how the queues have lengthened in recent days. In those that ask for a reservation, the majority are checked on their websites, where there are no longer hours to request a test this week, or by calling switchboards, which are usually collapsed. It is the latest sample of the juicy health market that has grown apart from public health with coronavirus detection tests.RELATED
At 8:30 and with almost two hours of waiting ahead, Sonia Mayor explained that she decided to have a PCR because she was recently with a friend who had to isolate herself due to having been contacted by a positive. “I do it just in case and because these days I will see some relatives and I want to play it safe,” he explains. That is to say, if it were not because these are the dates, he clarifies, he probably would not have chosen to spend the 120 euros that a PCR costs him in this center.
At the same time and at the doors of the same company but in Madrid, the line was longer if possible. Manuela arrived at the headquarters on Villanueva Street at 7:45 a.m. to take an antigen test, but gave up when they told her that the wait was three hours. “I wanted to take the test before going to Galicia to spend Christmas with my family, because I have been traveling for work. I have neither symptoms nor had I, but that way I would be calmer,” said this woman.
The runaway increase in demand for PCR and antigen testing is difficult to gauge beyond the queues and collapse of prior citations, since the firms do not provide data. QuironSalud, with four clinics in Barcelona, had full schedules until the 28th. The one who does offer them is the Mapfre insurer, which through its Savia platform refers clients to the different laboratories and clinics. In the last fifteen days they have multiplied the activity by 300% in Madrid and Barcelona. “With the arrival of the Christmas holidays, the demand has grown exponentially”, confirms the CEO of the firm Pedro Díaz Yuste.
He boom It has occurred despite the fact that health authorities have always been very cautious when advising the population to have antigen tests or PCR before certain social gatherings. Rather, it has been discouraged because of the false sense of security it can create. The Secretary of Public Health of Catalonia, Josep Maria Argimon, explained it to elDiario.es like this: “If you do it to meet 14 people with four bubbles and relax measures, no. If you do it as something additional, perfect”.
However, this has not prevented many companies from advertising Christmas coronavirus test offers with messages that appeal to emotions and security. “This Christmas, I see my grandchildren”, reads the motto of the HM Hospitales chain, which announces discounts for people over 65. Or “Don’t let the virus annul your Christmas,” from Synlab. Prices generally range between 90 and 120 euros for the PCR and 30 and 50 for the antigen test. The PCR bill contrasts, for example, with the one paid by the Generalitat to clinics when it refers patients, which is now 75 euros
Sara Calvo, 33, claims to be clear that an antigen test is not a guarantee of being 100% free of the virus, but said that this is safe. “These days I go to Teruel to my parents’ house and so I am calmer,” he argues. “It always gives a bit of a thing, because I go to a town where there are many older people, but I have been almost confined to home for several days,” says this teacher based in Barcelona.
In his case, he will spend Christmas with his father and mother at their home in Teruel. Two bubbles and less than six people, which will comply with the recommendations of the health authorities. He will also visit his brother in Zaragoza. “If I were infected it would be very bad luck, because during all these months I have worked in a school, I have taken the bus every day, I have met with friends … And nothing”.
The queues were packed with men and women between the ages of 25 and 45, although there are also some entire families and older people. The latter sometimes need to be tested as a requirement to undergo medical interventions, which does not exempt them from queuing. A recurring profile among customers these days are those who want to travel to the Balearic Islands or the Canary Islands to see the family, who are asked for a negative PCR done in recent days (in the case of the former only for non-residents). Or even those who fly to their foreign countries of origin.
One of the latter is Yves, 50, who arrived among the first to avoid the queue at the Teletest center, in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona. At 8 o’clock he was leaving the center, owned by Creu Blanca, with the documentation under his arm and the PCR done. “I fly to Italy to see the family and the test is good for me not only because they ask for it at the airport, but because my father is at risk, he is undergoing chemotherapy,” he explains. He arrived at 7 to queue and, at the time he leaves, there are about 50 people filling the sidewalk on Montseny and Àngel streets and a half hour wait.
A Teletest worker takes advantage of the queue to hand out the forms that customers must fill out from time to time, which they can do while waiting in the street and thus save time at the counter. The clerk, who runs up and down the queue delivering and collecting papers, explains that last week and this is being crazy. “We are having twice or even three times as many people as before,” he acknowledges. “And today you still see that there are fewer people than yesterday. Maybe it’s that everyone is watching the Lottery, right?”