The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (34) wants corona tests for the whole country. The capital Vienna, with 1.9 million inhabitants, will conduct a mass test between December 2nd and 13th. Tyrol and Vorarlberg with a total of around 1.1 million inhabitants will carry out the large-scale test campaign from December 4th to 6th. With the exception of Styria, the rest of the nine federal states have also set their schedule.
With the mass tests, Kurz wants to cushion the cautious lockdown opening from December 7th. In addition, Christmas should be saved as much as possible. Examples for the campaign are Italian South Tyrol or Slovakia, where mass tests were also recently carried out. It is important to note that mass tests are not a panacea, but rather provide a snapshot, says Kurz. “They are not the only solution that does not exist, but they are a good chance of localizing infections in the population and preventing further infections.” The aim is to find as many undiscovered infected people as possible among the 8.9 million inhabitants of Austria in good time before family reunions at Christmas.
Who should be tested?
As many residents as possible. In contrast to Slovakia, where people were stopped to test under threat of sanctions, the tests in Austria are voluntary. According to a press release from the Chancellery, the government has ordered seven million corona tests for the mass tests. In Vienna alone, a number of participants of up to 1.2 million is expected.
Where is testing carried out? Who is doing the action?
The corona mass tests are carried out in specially set up test centers in all district capitals. The Armed Forces are responsible for handling this in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Medical and fire brigade secured support. In Vienna, for example, three large locations were selected. 300 test lines should be available there. According to City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker, up to 150,000 tests can be carried out every day. Samples are taken by trained health workers and possibly medical students.
What kind of tests are done?
People are checked for a virus infection using rapid tests. The result of such an antigen test is available after around 15 minutes. Because the antigen tests sometimes incorrectly show a positive result, positive results should then be confirmed with a more reliable PCR test.
Who pays for it
The corona tests are free for the general public. The government spent the equivalent of 54 million francs in taxpayers’ money on the procurement of the seven million rapid antigen tests from Roche and Siemens.
What are the problems with the mass tests?
Critics fear that many people could become infected when queuing at the test centers or when traveling by public transport. In order to avoid the crowds, the mass tests could partly be carried out according to occupational groups. In Vienna, special attention is paid to the fact that only a few people are at the same time inside the centers where the smears are taken. An online appointment system announced by the government should also prevent long queues outdoors. However, this in turn raises concerns that especially older people without smartphones and the Internet could be excluded from the mass test.
Are the mass tests also coming in Switzerland?
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recently adjusted its Corona campaign. The current focus is on testing. The latest BAG posters call for you to be tested immediately if you have symptoms. But mass tests like in Austria have not been an issue in Switzerland so far. The Basel epidemiologist Marcel Tanner, a member of the federal corona task force, recently told TeleBasel that a mass test would only make sense if it was repeated. The reason for this is that newly infected people and people during the incubation period are negative in a mass test. Thus, the infection process can continue unhindered. According to Tanner, a mass test would have to be implemented very consistently. That doesn’t make sense in densely populated Europe. “A mass test in an island state like New Zealand is completely different from ours, be it Austria or Switzerland. We are in the middle of Europe and have all the exchange. “