The Antioquia Government announced a pilot of free COVID-19 tests at four stations on the Medellín metro starting on July 6 for 10 days.

The Antioquia Government in association with other public and private entities, unveiled a pilot plan for free COVID-19 tests and draw attention to the importance of self-care.

The participating entities include the Government of Antioquia, the Mayor’s Office of Medellín, the Medellín Metro, Comfama, Comfenalco Antioquia, SURA, ISA, One Health, Ruta N and the National University of Medellín. The ISA group donated the tests.

This pilot testing project announced by the Antioquia Government is targeted at informal and independent workers who are users of the Medellín Metro.

Inside a testing booth, photo courtesy of Antioquia Government

Inside a testing booth, photo courtesy of Antioquia Government

Free COVID-19 Tests on the Medellín Metro

The Niquía, San Antonio, Poblado and Sabaneta stations of the Medellín Metro were to have marked booths that invite users to voluntarily take the COVID-19 test, which is free.

But on July 7, we verified that only two stations (Niquía and San Antonio) have the testing booths on July 7. The testing booth will be added at the Sabaneta metro station on Friday, July 10.

The pilot project of free COVID-19 tests for independent workers reportedly will be carried out for ten days, between July 6 and 16.

These booths are marked with the message “Si eres trabajador independiente hazte aquí la prueba” (“If you are an independent worker, take the test here”). The booths are designed for the biosafety protocols required for this type of test.

Free COVID-10 tests in Parque Sabaneta

Free COVID-10 tests in Parque Sabaneta

Also the free COVID-19 test will be offered in different public spaces in the Aburrá Valley. Starting on July 13, the free testing that is intended for informal workers who are not insured with the health system will be offered at Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta and and in the Municipal Administrative Center of Itagüí.

We confirmed at Parque Sabaneta that COVID-19 tests are available for those without symptoms. If you have symptoms they don’t want you to go out in the public and should call the 123 emergency line.

Furthermore, they will be expanded the free testing to other municipalities in the metropolitan area, in order to review how the virus is circulating.

Testing booth at a metro station, photo courtesy of Antioquia Government

Testing booth at a metro station, photo courtesy of Antioquia Government

In addition to the test, workers will receive information about COVID-19 and its preventive care: what it is, how it is transmitted and how it is prevented.

Sabaneta metro station, one of the location where free COVID-19 tests will be performed

Sabaneta metro station, one of the location where free COVID-19 tests will be performed

COVID-19 Testing Types

The testing being done at these testing booths is the more reliable RT-PCR tests. PCR tests are performed with throat or nasal swabs and must be sent to a laboratory. So, it can take days to receive results.

There are two main testing methods for COVID-19: RT-PCR and rapid tests, which were covered in our article about COVID-19 testing in Colombia.

The first type of test, RT-PCR is a molecular test that is considered the gold standard and is used by Colombia for diagnosing cases. PT-PCR stands for reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction test, which tries to find genetic sequences of the virus by deploying primers – chemicals or reagents which are added to test if a reaction occurs – that attach to the targeted genetic sequences.

The PCR test is performed with throat or nasal swabs and is reportedly most reliable in the first week of the disease. Later, the virus can disappear in the throat while it continues to multiply in the lungs.

For infected people tested in the second week, sample material can be taken from the deep airways by suction catheter or coughing up material (sputum) can be used.

PCR test analysis must be done in a lab and most PCR tests can take a few hours to a few days. The RT-PCR test is the only type of test used in Colombia for reported COVID-19 testing statistics.

The other type of test is a rapid serological test that relies on detecting antibodies in a blood sample, usually obtained through a simple finger prick. These tests do not require special equipment to process the results, which allows them to be used at point-of-care.

When you’re exposed to COVID-19, your body develops antibodies, which can take several days to over a week. Serological tests are much faster than standard molecular tests, returning results in as few as 10-15 minutes.

However, since it can take several days for the body to develop an antibody response to the virus, serological tests may not be reliable in identifying a current infection. Serological tests have the potential of producing a false negative, a false result when you actually have the infection.

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Computer generated image of COVID-19, photo by Felipe Esquivel Reed

Medellin Guru’s Coronavirus Series

Medellin Guru has a series of articles about the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts in Colombia: Also, these articles are being kept up-to-date, as this is a fast-moving topic:

The Bottom Line:  Medellín Starts Free COVID-19 Tests on the Medellín Metro

The free COVID-19 tests are targeted at informal and independent workers who circulate throughout the Medellín metro area and may not have access to diagnostic tests.

The free testing that started on July 6 in some metro stations in the city and has allowed the collection 491 samples via testing by June 11.

We verified that the free tests are available is you are not insured in the Colombian healthcare system, including foreigners. Also, the tests are offered to those without symptoms. If you have symptoms you should call the emergency line at 123.

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Editors note: updated on July 7, 2020 with information that not all four metro stations have testing booths installed. Only the Niquía and San Antonio metro stations have testing booths as of July 7. Also, updated with the type of testing being done.

Editors note: updated on July 11, 2020 with information that free COVID-19 testing will also be offered in Parque Sabaneta in Sabaneta and in the Municipal Administrative Center of Itagüí starting on July 13.

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