Slovakia is set to start testing its citizens over the age of 10 for coronavirus on Saturday but the President has other thoughts about the idea. The drive to test four million people will last over two weekends. Slovakia has seen a surge in corona cases and health experts think the only way to counter the pandemic is a complete lockdown.
President Zuzana Caputova thinks the plan in unfeasible and called for a delay in testing after the armed forces chief claimed there was not enough trained human resource to carry the task. So far only 70% of the 20,000 staff required for carrying nasal swab have been recruited.
Slovakia registered 3,363 infections on Thursday bringing the tally to 55,091 since March. 212 have died of virus so far. Soldiers and medics were due to spread across Slovakia before the president’s call for a delay. Under the testing plan, almost four-fifths of the population would be screened through rapid antigen testing that has a 30% false negative rate. Results will be dispatched in a sealed envelope within 15 minutes.
“It’s the army’s biggest logistical operation since the country became independent,” said Defense Minister Jaro Nad.
“In terms of the pandemic we’re in a worse situation than the Czech Republic, but we’re two or three weeks behind,” he told me. He said he had been put in charge of the national operation after a pilot project in four counties in northern Slovakia had been judged a success.
The neighboring Czech Republic twice as populated as Slovakia registered 13,051 new cases on Thursday bringing the caseload to 310,068. Some 2,862 people have died of the deadly disease and the fatality rate in the past two weeks is the highest in European Union.
Slovakia’s numbers are far lower but government modelling data suggests the cases will put a strain on the national health system by mid-November if nothing is done to stop the spread.
“There’s no alternative – it’s either mass testing or harsh lockdown,” Mr Nad told the BBC.