The Czech Republic could soon begin a free and voluntary mass testing of citizens for the coronavirus, PM Babis announced on Tuesday.
“I would be very happy to allow all citizens to have voluntary and free antigen tests at least a week or ten days before Christmas,” Babiš said to Novinky.cz
Everyone over the age of 10 years can take an antigen test. After being tested, people must wait in a separate disinfected room and, around 10 minutes later, will be given their results. However, its accuracy is lower than laboratory PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests.
The PCR test is regarded as the “gold standard” by epidemiologists, but may take up to a day or longer to produce a result as the sample is sent off to a laboratory. It is, however, the one used most around the world.
In Slovakia, the government started using rapid COVID-19 tests on a massive scale on October 31 and November 1, testing two-thirds of its population, with a mandatory quarantine for anyone who was infected. (Anyone who chose not to be tested was required to stay at home, with certificates given to those who took the tests.)
Slovakia’s health minister wrote a Facebook post saying that the testing program “broke the curve” and “directed it quite steeply down.” He noted, though, that mass testing would have to continue or the rates would grow again.
The Czech Republic reported 4,377 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. In total, 496,638 cases have been detected since the pandemic started. There are 83,296 active cases currently.
The number of hospitalized patients has dropped to 5,296, compared to a peak above 8,000 in early November.
What is mass testing and why is it important?
Mass testing means asking everyone to be tested, whether or not they have symptoms.
The idea is to find healthy people who may be infected, but not yet displaying symptoms. They can then be told to isolate and be prevented from spreading the virus.