MADRID (AP) — Spain is introducing price controls for COVID-19 home testing kits, authorities announced Thursday, after an outcry over reports of price-gouging during the Christmas holidays when demand for the rapid antigen tests outpaced supply.
The maximum price for the kits on sale at pharmacies from Saturday will be 2.94 euros ($3.37), Health Minister Carolina Darias told a news conference.
Darias said the price ceiling aimed to make the nasal swabs for self-testing “as accessible as possible, while ensuring they are available at pharmacies.”
The measure was unanimously agreed at a meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee on Medicine Prices, she said, adding that officials took into account wholesale prices and the price of tests in other European countries.
Demand for the tests has been “exponential,” Darias said.
Spanish consumer association Facua recently conducted a survey of 150 pharmacies in five cities and found that prices for test kits ranged between 4.95 and 10 euros ($5.68-$11.50) as demand spiked.
Spain has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks due to the omicron variant, placing public health services under strain and prompting officials to encourage widespread testing.
The surge isn’t yet showing signs of abating, with Spain officially reporting a new daily record of almost 180,000 new infections on Wednesday.
Spain is also extending COVID-19 booster shots for those already vaccinated to people aged between 18-39, Darias announced. That represents about 12 million people.
The health ministry says that, despite the surge in cases, hospitalizations and ICU occupancy rates are still lower than one year ago. The omicron variant is putting about 2% of cases in hospital, compared with 6% in the months preceding its spread and 8% a year ago.
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