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Slovakia to test entire population over the age of 10 for coronavirus.

Image Credit: Radovan Stoklasa/ Reuters

Slovakia will test its entire population, with the exception of citizens below 10 years of age, for COVID-19. The three-week programme will involve up to 20,000 medical staff to test a population of 5 million, aimed at curbing the rapid spread of the virus. The army will also help the medical staff, which will be working in 5,000 testing sites, starting from this weekend. Last weekend, a pilot exercise was conducted in Bardejov and Orava, and was considered a success. In this exercise, 140,000 people were tested, and 4% were found to be positive and have been quarantined.

The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Igor Matovic said,

If we pull this off, we can be a model for the whole World.

Prime Minister Igot Matovic.

Slovakia has initially managed to contain the virus in the first wave, after locking early in March, but in recent weeks new cases have surged, prompting officials to take action as their health system is under strain, and at risk of collapsing. On Wednesday, Slovakia reported 2,785 new cases compared to 231 cases the month before. Slovakia is particularly concerned about the rapid spread of the virus in Czech Republic, their neighbour, which has the second fastest growing outbreak in the European Union.

Milos, a project manager located in Northen Slovakia, who does not want his full name to be used, said,

Our health system is not suited to such an enormous (number of infections).

Milos

The results of the test will be issued in 30 minutes since the traditional Polymerse Chain Reaction (PCR) test which requires a swab would not be used, and captures the whole genomic sequence of the virus. Instead, an antigen test will be used. The antigen test kit looks for antigens that are on the surface of the virus. It is not accurate as a PCR test, and its accuracy ranges from 50-90%.

Positive citizens have to either quarantine at their home for 10 days or can stay a government facility. Those citizens that opt not to test themselves, have to either self-isolate for 10 days or else pay a fine of €1,650. Citizens will receive a certificate for testing themselves, and police will conduct spot checks to make sure no one is avoiding the process.

Slovakia is hoping that this mass testing will help to decrease the spread of the virus, have an overview of the spread of the virus and avoid a second full lock-down.

As of Saturday, Slovakia reported 55,091 cases and 212 deaths since the pandemic began.

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