Slovakia recently embarked on widespread testing of the entire population in the context of the worldwide pandemic spread of COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus (coronavirus).
Slovakia currently has a population of nearly 5.5 million, with two-thirds of that number successfully tested in just two days. Experts say this testing should help to halve the number of infected people.
How Slovakia progressed
The core of the whole project rested on the army, which of course also cooperated with the civilian medical staff. It is certainly interesting to note that health workers from Austria and Hungary also participated in the implementation of the population testing.
As mentioned above, approximately two thirds of the population, i.e. approximately 3.6 million people, were tested. Fortunately, the proportion of infected persons was very low, at just under 38,500, and amounted to just over one per cent.
As far as the method of testing used is concerned, antigen tests were used, which are performed in the same way as PCR tests, i.e. by swabbing from the nasopharynx, but their undeniable advantage is the fact that results can be obtained almost immediately, i.e. within half an hour. Moreover, compared to PCR, it is a much cheaper method, although not as accurate as PCR testing.
Participation in universal testing was not made compulsory, so Slovakia went the route of voluntary testing. However, the consequence for those who did not take part in the testing was a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Their case was therefore treated in the same way as those who tested positive.
In terms of the actual logistics of blanket testing, the aim was obviously to avoid the formation of queues, which was mostly successful, although not entirely at all sampling points. People were given the date and time of their collection and were assigned a collection point depending on where they lived. Testing did not apply to people under 10 years of age, and participation in universal testing was also not recommended for people with serious health problems, nor for citizens over 65 years of age.
British Experts on Experienced in Slovakia
Surface testing has its supporters and opponents in European countries and the Slovak example is thus very valuable in terms of gaining the necessary information and experience. The British government has also sent a team of experts to Slovakia, particularly to implement universal testing in the UK.
Slovakia’s Ministry of Defence said the UK team consisted of
- two experts who will be responsible for running the area-wide testing in part of the UK, and
- two government advisers.
A spokesman for 10 Downing Street, the seat of the British Prime Minister, did not give further details of the mission, merely stressing that the aim of the efforts of the British experts is primarily to reduce the reproductive number of the virus and thus the number of people infected with COVID-19.