EU Ponders Massive Testing for COVID-19

The European authorities have begun to adopt the COVID-19 total testing practice used by China. Slovakia has already tested almost all of its inhabitants between 10 and 65 years of age, and the UK decided to test the method in Liverpool. Epidemiologists and WHO are not yet sure about its effectiveness.

European authorities are turning to the idea of total testing against the backdrop of a new wave of COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal writes.

Discussions in Europe about the need to expand testing have heated up Slovakia’s actions, the publication notes. The authorities of this country, with the support of the army, have decided to test every resident from 10 to 65 years old. Of the approximately 4 million people of this age, 3.6 million have been tested. 38,000 people have received positive results. « When the situation is so bad, there is nothing to lose, » explained Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď. According to him, it was « almost impossible » to organize such testing, but « somehow they did it ».

Slovak policemen and soldiers carried out random door-to-door checks to make sure that the infected people stayed home. A quarantine violation or refusal to take the test meant a fine of €1600. According to the Minister, the majority of residents have met the government’s requirements.

The Chinese authorities are already practicing mass testing in entire cities. In October, they tested 9 million people in Qingdao City after 12 cases were discovered. The population of the city of Kashgar, which is home to 4.7 million people, was tested after a single disease with no symptoms detected.

Last weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent his advisers to Slovakia to monitor the tests. Now, starting on Friday, the UK will launch total testing in Liverpool: every citizen of the city has to take a COVID-19 test, WSJ says. The military will also support the programme. If it proves effective, it will be extended to other major British cities. « This kind of mass testing has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against COVID-19, » said Johnson.

The Belgian authorities, in turn, asked medical experts to assess whether a testing programme like the Slovak one would help contain the pandemic, told Professor of Microbiology at the University of Antwerp. In addition, the idea was discussed at NATO meetings and between the heads of EU countries, the publication notes.

However, European epidemiologists have different views on the idea of total testing, WSJ stresses. Some of them ask whether this is an effective way of using tests that could be spent on regular testing of people at risk – doctors, police or nursing homes staff.


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