Half of Slovakia’s population tested for coronavirus in one day – The Guardian

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Nearly half of Slovakia’s entire population took Covid-19 swabs on Saturday, the first day of a two-day nationwide testing drive the government hopes will help reverse a surge in infections without a hard lockdown.

The scheme, a first for a country of Slovakia’s size, is being watched by other nations looking for ways to slow the virus spread and avoid overwhelming their health systems.

The defence minister, Jaroslav Naď said on Sunday 2.58 million Slovaks had taken a test on Saturday, and 25,850 or 1% tested positive and had to go into quarantine.

The EU country has a population 5.5 million and aims to test as many people as possible, except for children under 10.

Slovakia cases

More than 40,000 medics and support teams of soldiers, police, administrative workers and volunteers staffed about 5,000 sites to administer the antigen 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.

The prime minister, Igor Matovič, apologised for putting pressure on people to take part, but said the requirement was justified. “Freedom must go together with responsibility toward those who … are the weakest among us, oncology patients, old people, people with other diseases,” he told a news conference.

Slovakia had relatively few cases in the spring and summer after swiftly imposing restrictions. But infections have soared 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 some experts who doubted 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 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, and 219 deaths to date.

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