COVID-19 tests are now being sold at Barcelona pharmacies across the country – yaaay!
Even better, certain pharmacies in Catalonia are now also providing COVID-19 certification services. That means, you can go travel abroad with those very same pharmacy tests too. At a fraction of the price of the official COVID-19 clinics. It says so here (Spanish).
Amaaaazing – right?
Well… technically speaking it should be. In practice, however, these are weird times, so hold your horses.
It’s actually not quite that simple. Or else I wouldn’t be writing this article for you now, would I? 😉
Before we start…
One thing to mention before we start is the fact that the term “getting a test from the Pharmacy” is quite misleading.
When I read the original article, I truly thought this meant you could walk into any Catalan pharmacy, get a test done and then wait for your result.
This is, however, actually not the case.
No. What this actually means in practice is that certain Catalan pharmacies (not all) are now supporting teleconferencing tests where you do your antigen or PCR test at home and then get a verification certificate sent to you via email.
How exactly that works, I will describe below – so pay attention folks – it’s a journey!
(The money you save might just make it worth it though…)
Part 1 – Sign up for a COVID-19 consultation via Alphega Salud
The pharmacies that support testing will usually have a sign on the windows or around the building showing something along the lines of “Antigeno certificado – 18€”.
In my case, I was passing by the Farmacia de la Llana in el Borne (Plaça de la Llana, 11, 08003 Barcelona) when I first saw it advertised on a board. They also had a poster on the wall with a QR code and instructions on it.
When I took a picture of the QR code, it took me the the following site:
Step 1: Select your Language
Here I could choose between 5 different languages. Spanish, Catalan, German, French and English.
Step 2: Read the Instructions
After selecting the English option I was then taken to a page where I was given some basic instructions on how the process works (being honest though, I didn’t really pay too much attention though and forgot them after clicking away).
I’ve put the summary of all slides shown below.
Step 3: Register yourself to make a payment
After clicking to continue, I was then taken to a Data for Payment by Card page.
(Note: This is the first place you need to pay attention as the sign up process isn’t that straight forward if you run into technical issues like I did.)
On this page you need to enter your first name, last name and telephone number (incl. country code for example +44, +34). International numbers are accepted on this page (even though it doesn’t tell you that). I tried with a UK number and it worked.
IMPORTANT: Do not delete the confirmation SMS that you will receive after submitting this data and agreeing to the data handling policy. If you run into any technical issues, your login details will be:
Username: The number you entered
Password: The confirmation SMS number you received
You may also need to refresh the page a couple of times before it works.
Step 5: Make the payment
Once you are successfully signed up, you will be taken to a MyHospital payments page.
You have a variety of different payment options here, which I found neat.
Step 6: Make an appointment to see the doctor
Once you have made the payment of your 18€ you will be able to make an appointment to meet the doctor.
When I did it, they said that there would be options for in-person or virtual consultations. In reality though, all consultations were virtual.
Once your time-slot was booked you get a confirmation email and WhatsApp message with your doctor’s details and the confirmed appointment time in them.
The test I ordered was sent by a friendly doctor’s assistant, who was happy to answer any questions I had.
Part 2 – Buy a COVID-19 Test at the pharmacy
Following my purchase of the certification in the Alphega app, it was now time to get the actual test box.
Admittedly, I got a little confused here, as I wasn’t sure whether I should be receiving the test at home or picking it up at a pharmacy. However, given my appointment was in 2.5 hours, the former seemed unlikely.
I also wasn’t sure if I needed to print a copy of my receipt to pick up the COVID-19 box or not. I thought my online purchase and the test sold might somehow be linked.
That being the case, I decided to walk into the pharmacy and ask directly.
After talking to a kind pharmacist, it became clear that online certification and buying the COVID-19 test were two different processes.
I wasn’t asked for a receipt, so there was nothing there to link my box to a purchase. Also, I had to pay another 8.50€ to buy the test itself.
As such it turned out that the 18€ paid online was only for the certification.
After buying the test, the pharmacist told me to go home and wait for the time or the appointment.
Apparently, I would receive a link via Whatsapp from the doctor when it was time. The doctor would then walk myself and mom (who was the one being tested) through the test procedure.
Part 3 – Taking the COVID-19 test at home
Sure enough just a few minutes after the appointment time a link came through Whatsapp.
My mother and I were sitting on the sofa and a lady walked us through the instructions (in very broken English – but English nonetheless!).
- Set up the box
- Put the covid testing liquid into the little plastic capsule
- Take out the swab stick and circle it around inside your right and left nostril from 5 seconds each
- Put the swab into the little plastic capsule, stir for a few seconds and close
- Pour three drops into the plastic pregnancy test style testing plate
- Wait 15 minutes for results
- Send a photo of the result to the doctor via Whatsapp
- Get your certificate on the same day via email
Sounds simple enough. In reality it wasn’t quite so simple.
You see, my mother actually had some issues with blocked sinuses that day and so after waiting 15 minutes we were not getting any result.
Covid-19 home test – DIY recovery
Sitting there in the living room puzzled, I started thinking what could be the issue. I had taken a test previously and knew that the liquid from the capsule was meant to flow through the test to reach the lines that would give a positive/negative result.
However, the whole thing seemed dry. There was no liquid spreading – hence we were not getting a result.
This made me wonder whether we had a faulty test, or we needed to do something differently.
Not wanting to go out and buy another certification and test (which may have been the consequence), I decided to experiment.
I got an ear cleaner and swabbed out the gooeyness from the testing panel. Then I poured in some more of the liquid from the capsule again – and then I started gently shaking the testing panel from side to side.
The hope was that it would allow some of the new liquid to flow into the test strip instead of keeping it dry. I’m happy to report that after about 5 minutes of this, there was some success and the liquid started flowing.
After another 15 minutes of waiting, we then finally had a result… negative!
Sending the photo to the doctor we then got our results within about 3 hours.
As far as COVID testing goes I’ve had a few experiences so far. I’ve been to two clinics, done them independently at home and now tested this new pharmacy service too.
In terms of the ease of the process, I would say that the pharmacy process isn’t set up very intuitively.
The app kept crashing for me, the fact my test was not included in the 18€ was a bit disappointing, and needing to play around with the test to get it to work (not knowing if that was in some way influencing the results) was unsettling too.
At a clinic, you obviously wouldn’t have these issues. You would just go there, the doctor swabs you and then you go on your merry way.
Having said that, I’m quite happy that they are now trying to introduce cheaper and quicker ways of testing.
As COVID-19 tests have become a reality of travel these days, it’s good to see some more cost effective ways of getting the job done.
Instead of having to pay 40-50€ for a standard antigen test at a clinic, this one cost 26.50€ in total. Also, whilst I normally had to wait 24-72 hours for my results from a clinic, I got the results in 3.5 hours using this method.
That being the case, even though I can definitely see that the system has flaws – after the first time, I’d definitely recommend it.
It’s cheap(er). It’s faster. And it gets you what you need:
That QR code to travel…
As a warning – open borders – I’m coming for you! <3