On the first day of its two-day nationwide lockdown, the east European country of Slovakia tested nearly half of its population for Covid-19, in a testing drive aimed at reversing the surge in infections without a ‘hard lockdown’, British newspaper The Guardian reported.
The Slavic European Union member nation houses a population of 5.5 million and is executing a national scheme to test as many people as possible, with an exception for children under the age of 10.
The scheme, which is first for a country of Slovakia’s size, is being closely monitored by other nations looking for methods to impede the virus spread without overwhelming their health systems, and their economies through multiple lockdowns.
The defence minister, Jaroslav Nad, was quoted as saying by The Guardian that 2.58 million Slovaks had taken a test on Saturday, and 25,850, or about one per cent, tested positive and had to be quarantined.
More than 40,000 medics and support teams of soldiers, police, administrative workers and volunteers staffed about 5,000 sites to administer the swab tests. The testing was free and voluntary, but the government has said it will impose a lockdown on those who do not participate, including a ban on going to work.
Slovakia had comparatively fewer cases in the spring and summer after swiftly imposing restrictions, but infections have risen in recent weeks, raising concerns the country may follow the Czech Republic, which has the highest two-week death rate in Europe.
The scheme has faced opposition from certain Slovak experts, who doubted whether it made sense as an one-off measure, or pointed to the antigen tests used, which are less accurate than the laboratory PCR tests and may thus return more false negatives and false positives.
The Guardian reported the government is planning a second round of testing next weekend.
On Sunday, Slovakia reported 2,282 new cases through PCR tests, putting the total at 59,946, not including those identified in the nationwide scheme. The country has seen 219 Covid deaths to date.