Quick tests at Christmas are a trap

Antigen tests cannot be used to circumvent restrictions

It is gradually becoming clear that Christmas can become a veritable epidemiological time bomb, with millions of people moving around freely and meeting indoors with relatives they have not seen for a long time. These family reunions, which have always been the essence of Christmas, are now a source of danger. The possibility of an exponential growth in covid-19 infections, with the consequent collapse of the public health system in the following weeks, scares the health authorities very much. Not only the Catalan or Spanish ones, but those of the western world in general, at least in the places where these holidays are celebrated.

Here, a permissive policy has been opted for if we compare it with countries around us such as Italy, where people will not be allowed to leave their own municipality, or France, where the hospitality industry will continue to be closed until after the holidays. Therefore, everything will depend on the individual attitude of each person. From this point of view, the health authorities, both Catalan and Spanish, wanted to warn the population that the antigen tests that will soon arrive at pharmacies cannot be a "passport" to get around the restrictions.

We recall that family meetings have been limited to a maximum of 10 people, including children, and that it is recommended that there be no more than two bubbles of cohabitation. The fact that it is possible to take a test and obtain a negative result, however, does not mean that groups of 15 or 20 people can meet, because experience shows that there is a percentage of false negatives which, on a large scale and multiplied by thousands of family meetings, can result in an epidemiological catastrophe. Therefore, we must be strict in complying with the measures: 10 people maximum, places with ventilation and interpersonal distance. This is an exceptional Christmas that, if everything goes as it should with the vaccines, will not be repeated, at least until there is a new similar pandemic.

Moreover, we are seeing these days that the moment that some spaces of social interaction have been recovered, such as bars and restaurants or culture, the rate of contagion has shot up and it has not been possible to continue easing restrictions in Catalonia. This Monday has been the first in 15 days in which the number of admissions to ICUs has risen. At the moment, the indicators are far from optimal but they seem to be under control, although a downturn that makes us reconsider the decisions that have been taken so far cannot be ruled out.

The images of these days of crowds shopping in the centre of Barcelona are not good news either, because if the capacity restrictions are not met, there is a possibility that later we will have to close all the shops again. In general, we all have to be much more careful when deciding where we go and in when we do it. The aim must be to protect oneself as much as possible and not to put oneself at risk. And during the Christmas holidays we will have to be even more careful if we do not want to contribute to the spread of the pandemic.