HOPES of averting a second deadly coronavirus wave in Spain have been dealt a blow as antibody tests show just five per cent of its population have immunity.
New research proved "there is no herd immunity in Spain” declared an “unsurprised” Health Minister, Salvador Illa.
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A study carried out by the Carlos III Health Institute and the National Statistics Institute tested 60,000 people for antibodies created to fight off the new virus.
Antibody tests are important for establishing who has had the coronavirus, especially as many people infected seem to show no symptoms.
The results indicate that five per cent – 2.3 million of Spain's 45 million population – have been hit by the bug.
This figure is about ten times more than the official count of under 230,000 cases.
Health Minister Salvador Illa told reporters: "We have not been surprised.
"There is no herd immunity in Spain."
The revelations come as Spain continues to carefully ease restrictions.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez had said that people would be allowed to leave their homes for short walks and exercise starting on May 2 after seven weeks of strict home confinement.
Just over half of Spain's population then progressed to the second phase of a four-step lockdown-easing plan on Monday.
But Madrid, Barcelona and other cities including Valencia, Malaga and Granada have remained in the preparatory Phase 0.
That level means hairdressers and other businesses offering services by appointment can reopen, restaurants can offer takeaway services, professional sports leagues are able to train. Plus, short walks and individual sporting activities are allowed.
The joint antibody study showed that Madrid, one of the worst-affected regions, showed a coronavirus prevalence of 11.3 per cent.
Soria and Cuenca, in the central regions of Castilla y Leon and Castilla La Mancha, are the provinces with the highest prevalence, with 14.2 and 13.5 per cent respectively.
Spain has a four-phase plan to lift a coronavirus lockdown and return to normal by the end of June.
The country has also imposed a two-week quarantine for foreign travellers and practically shut the border to air and maritime travel to avoid importing new cases from other countries.
Its authorities will keep borders closed to most travellers from abroad until July, two foreign ministry sources said on Wednesday.
There are hopes the move will avoid a second wave of contagion from the coronavirus.
Land borders with France and Portugal have been closed since a state of emergency was declared in mid-March.
To prevent triggering a new wave of infections being imported by travellers from abroad, the government is studying ways of controlling who can enter the country.
ANTIBODY TEST HOPES
Two models proposed are either sanitary corridors or medical-testing requirements.
Countries around the world – including the UK – have been pinning hopes on antibody tests.
In March, PM Boris Johnson said that Britain was hoping to buy an antibody test which would be "as simple as a pregnancy test".
He explained that "obviously it has the potential to be a total game changer" to install confidence in people looking to return to their workplace.
And this week it was announced that the first coronavirus antibody test that could help ease lockdown in the UK has been given the go-ahead by Public Health England.
The potentially game-changing kit was developed by Swiss healthcare company Roche.
It was given the seal of approval by PHE's Porton Down facility last week – with the government now in talks to buy millions of the tests.
The kit supports the detection of antibodies in patients who have been exposed to coronavirus and will therefore be immune from catching the bug again.
They will be instrumental in the UK lifting strict lockdown measures and allow people to return to work – with the government even suggesting granting "immunity passports" to those who pass the test.
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