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The coronavirus test which Salvador Illa refused to undertake before the Catalan election debate on Tuesday night has become a focus of attention as the campaign moves into its final stretch. In particular, because of who Illa is: the former health minister for the Spanish government. But the Socialist (PSC) candidate for this Sunday's election did not deviate from the expected script today and justified his refusal to the test because he did not meet the requirements that make a coronavirus test necessary. He asserted that he will not be the one who "skips" the protocols, and that he will not "overact" either - which he considers that Catalan public television did, by asking all candidates to take a test. With the subject having been brought up, he used the opportunity to flatly deny that he has been vaccinated against Covi¡d-19. Some of his rivals, such as ERC leader Oriol Junqueras, have speculated about the possibility that he has jumped the queue and had an early jab. The PP has even urged the public prosecutors to investigate. Tonight there is another TV debate, this time on Spanish network La Sexta, and Illa has said he will once again say no to a test.

In an interview with radio station COPE on Thursday morning, Salvador Illa wanted to be clear: "I haven't been vaccinated, all of Spain knows that. We have always recommended that the priority groups be adhered to." He attributed the controversy to "the ways some people have of doing politics" and wanted to end the debate on the subject.

As for the test he refused, the Socialist candidate said that "as a minister" he always recommended following the protocols. "And I will not skip them, nor will I overact," he added. He noted that no one informed him of the TV3 protocol for the debate, which recommended a coronavirus test, which the other eight candidates underwent. And if this protocol exists, he said, "it was an overreaction." He recalled how that morning he went to an interview on Catalan public television, on a set "with 15 or 20 people", and that they did not demand anything from him. He concluded: "The protocol says that test should be carried out when you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who is positive."

The other candidates asked Salvador Illa for explanations after learning that he had not taken the test. On Wednesday, at a campaign meeting in Manresa, Oriol Junqueras called on the PSC candidate to clarify whether he had been vaccinated "taking advantage of his position" as a minister. "The people have a right to know before they go to the polls on Sunday. We have a right to know the truth," the ERC president said at the rally. He described the Socialist candidate as the "worst" health minister in the world.

"The pro-independence "Colón photo"

Illa repeated the phrase almost a dozen times, as it was his takeaway message for the media: "It's the pro-independence "Colón photo". The reference - to a Madrid march held in 2019 by the three parties of the Spanish right - was Salvador Illa's response to yesterday's pre-election agreement signed by all the pro-independence parties that they will not enter into any agreement to govern with the PSC, this time without a notary present. The Socialist candidate for the Catalan presidency took advantage of the circumstance to depict the situation as one of "everybody against Illa" because, he said, he represents the alternative to the independence movement. This signed document also allowed him to change the subject from the issue of his coronavirus test for the TV3 debate. The document "shows them up", said the former Spanish health minister -  it was his second most repeated expression this morning.

The PSC candidate for the 14th February elections summed it up as "another episode of bad tempers and confrontation". Salvador Illa said that the agreement "is an anti-Illa pact" and that "it is the Colón photo of the pro-independence parties". It "shows them up perfectly", he said, because "they want more of the same". Asked about the Tinell Pact, the agreement which the Catalan Socialists once made with pro-independence ERC and the alternative left, he said he was not "proud" of that deal.

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