Two Thirds of Slovak Population Tested For Coronavirus In One Weekend
Slovakia carried out the first phase of nationwide testing this weekend. Two thirds of the population were tested for coronavirus in a monumental effort: 3.6 million were tested out of the 5.5 million inhabitants of the country. Around 1% tested positive. Title image: Covid-19 testing station in Slovakia. Credit: Vlada.gov.sk.
Czech Rep., Nov. 5 (BD) – The second wave of the coronavirus epidemic has left governments all over Europe with a Herculean task in their hands. Many opted for restrictions similar to those enforced back in the Spring, but Slovakia decided on a different approach, an ambitious project of testing every adult in the nation. The Slovak government hopes that this will allow for softer restrictions on citizens’ daily lives.
Testing revealed that 1.06% of the population was carrying the virus. Government officials warned that the number could be higher, approaching 2%, as the antigen tests used do not provide the same level of accuracy as PCR tests. Participation was voluntary, but those who decline to get tested are required to enter a 10-day quarantine.
A second round of testing is planned for November 7th-8th. The demands and challenges of the project proved to be many, with difficulties in securing enough medical professionals and infrastructure to carry out such a large amount of tests becoming clear from the start. Furthermore, some critics cautioned against possible negative consequences – the Slovak Association of General Practitioners pointed out that concentrating people in the numbers seen at screening sites contradicts “the recommendations of infectious disease experts”.
Prime Minister Igor Matovič thanked all those involved in the testing effort in a social media post: “Mayors, local government employees, municipal and city deputies, soldiers, state and municipal police officers, firefighters and rescuers, paramedics, volunteers and all people of good will, who each decided to fight for the health and lives of our most vulnerable. You were all absolutely great.”
The government seems confident they have found a good solution to the crisis. “It means we don’t have to kill the economy,” said Matovič, “this is a smarter solution.”
As of today, Slovakia has registered 68,734 Covid-19 cases and 286 people have died. The long term results of the promising Slovak experiment remain to be seen.
See the photos below of Prime Minister Igor Matovič visiting a Covid-19 testing station on November 2nd, 2020.