Antibody tests in Spain show virus less prevalent than hoped

Health experts say that only one in 20 residents in Spain has been exposed to the new coronavirus, according to the final results of a nationwide survey on the prevalence of antibodies released Monday.

The final round of the random blood tests has confirmed that antibodies were present in 5.2% of the more than 68,000 participants surveyed three times over the past three months. The sample is meant to be representative of the country’s 47 million residents, pointing to some 2.4 million cases nationwide, far higher than the 250,000 infections confirmed thus far.

Only residents in hard-hit nursing homes and patients at hospitals have been excluded from the survey because, according to the experts, separate specific research would be needed to map the impact there.

An elderly patient is taken to a waiting ambulance from his home after he showed signs of possible coronavirus symptoms with serious breathing problems in Madrid, Spain, April 12, 2020. (Olmo Calvo/AP)

Marina Pollán, director of the National Epidemiological Center, said the results confirm that Spain is far from having developed the “herd immunity” that scientists had hoped for as a shield for future spread of the virus.

She also said that the fact that there has been no significant change from previous versions of the survey was a result of the strict lockdown that kept most Spaniards at home for over two months.

As in the previous two rounds, important differences have been detected between regions depending on whether they were more or less hit by the pandemic, with the area around the Spanish capital and the provinces of Soria and Segovia showing more than 11.7% of infections. The Balearic and Canary islands had under 2% of prevalence, according to the survey, which found no significant differences based on gender, age, nationality or income.

Partial lockdowns were brought back over the weekend to two northern counties after significant spikes in infections. Spain has recorded at least 28,300 deaths from the new coronavirus.

— AP