Spain set to limit retail price of COVID-19 antigen tests

People line up to receive free lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests at a pharmacy as regional authorities restocked supplies after Christmas in Madrid, Spain December 28, 2021. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

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MADRID, Jan 10 (Reuters) – The Spanish government is working on rules to limit the retail price of antigen tests for COVID-19, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday, after shortages were reported in many pharmacies across the country last month.

Price hikes during the spike in Omicron cases and the scarcity of tests in pharmacies have sparked protests from opposition politicians and consumer groups, many of whom are calling for the tests to be sold in supermarkets.

“The debate we had before and during the Christmas season was the provision of tests; there was a bottleneck,” Sanchez said in an interview with Cadena SER radio station. “Now we will enter the test price control.”

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Sanchez said it might be time to use different metrics to track the pandemic as COVID-19 becomes less deadly, confirming a report that authorities plan to monitor it the same way they track the virus. flu, without recording every case or testing all symptoms. people. Read more

Spain’s COVID-19 infection rate, as measured over the past 14 days, hit a new high of 2,989 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, a more than tenfold increase since early December.

The COVID-19 intensive care occupancy rate in hospitals rose slightly to 23.6%, from 8% a month ago, but still about half the 43% peak recorded a year ago.

Liberalizing the antigen testing market would be more effective than capping prices, center-right opposition leader Ines Arrimadas said on Monday.

“Not far from here, in Portugal, people can go and buy tests in their local supermarket,” she told reporters.

Antigen tests sell for around 3 euros ($3.40) in neighboring Portugal while they cost around 10 euros in Spain, where they are only available in pharmacies, Arrimadas said.

Spain will buy 344,000 doses of the COVID-19 antiviral pill from Pfizer (PFE.N) in January, Sanchez also said on Monday.

The pill, Paxlovid, is for adults who have a mild to moderate infection and are at high risk of their disease getting worse. It is most effective when taken during the early stages of COVID-19, before any possible hospitalization.

($1 = 0.8834 euros)

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Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo Additional reporting by Joan Faus Editing by Tomasz Janowski, David Clarke and David Goodman

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