The European country that has protected its nation against COVID-19 better than any other country is about to test the whole population for coronavirus, wrote Bloomberg about the Slovak government's plan on Friday.
A day before nationwide testing, foreign media noticed that Slovakia is still lacking in healthcare workers for the 5,000 sampling points around the country, the Sme daily wrote.
Pilot testing was successful
“The number of COVID-19 cases has risen rapidly in Slovakia since the end of the summer,” Ed Holt writes in a story for medical magazine Lancet.
The country garnered international praise for its response to the virus in the first wave of the pandemic, he added.
Bloomberg praised Slovakia in April as a country that had the lowest death rate due to the coronavirus among European countries.
“But in the past three weeks, thousands of new infections have been identified per day,” Holt wrote. The number of casualties increased steeply as well.
Referencing Slovak infectologists, Lancet wrote that pilot testing in the four most-hit Slovak districts can be considered a success.
It is too fast
Several prominent scientists welcomed the Slovak plan to test the whole nation, according to Lancet. But they also have objections to how quickly the Slovak government organised nationwide testing.
Professor of the epidemiology Julian Peto from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine considers the plan to be “a great idea” but he criticised the approach of the Slovak government.
“I am delighted someone has decided to try it, but this seems like a very bad way of doing it,” he said, as quoted by the Lancet. “This kind of testing can't be implemented overnight.”
Problems in the pilot phase
“That's the way forward, there's no doubt about it,” said Luke O'Neill, professor of biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
“That’s a good case study,” he added. “If that one works it will be informative for the rest of the world.”
American Daily also emphasised that nationwide testing has its limits and some problems have occurred in the pilot phase, on the first day of the testing, such as lacking human resources and material. Several testing points had been opened with delay.
Balkan Insight pointed out that the Slovak government needs about 20,000 healthcare workers to help out during the nationwide testing.
“Yet by Monday, only 12,000 medical volunteers had signed up,” the portal wrote.
There are still not enough healthcare workers as of Friday, less than a day before the start of the testing. This was confirmed by President Zuzana Čaputová after she met with the army’s headquarters.
“The Slovak government is testing the nation for COVID – as well as its patience,” Balkan Insight reported.
Watched by other nations
British daily The Guardian reported on the press conference held after the first day of the nationwide testing, stating that “the government hopes it 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 system,” the daily wrote.
It also recalled that the country had relatively few cases in the spring and summer after imposing several 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 Guardian added.
French daily Le Monde also reported on the testing, recalling how PM Igor Matovič compared the action to “the Normandy landings”.
The daily spoke with František Miko, a trumpeter in the Slovak Presidency Orchestra, who was mobilised to help prepare the testing.
“The armed forces have managed to organise this as best they can in view of the time allotted to them,” the soldier told Le Monde, proudly showing him around the Bratislava school which had been assigned to him.
The daily later described the entire process of taking the swab and pointed out that the antigen tests used for the nationwide testing are less reliable than conventional PCR tests.
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica wrote about the testing as well, focusing on the opposition and scepticism it was met with.
Read more about the coronavirus outbreak in Slovakia:
- Do I have the coronavirus? How to proceed if you have a suspicion
- Coronavirus in Slovakia: statistics
- How to travel to and from Slovakia during COVID-19
- The list of low-risk countries and risky regions
- More information about what the coronavirus is and how to protect yourself from the infection (WHO)
- Q&A: State of emergency declared about coronavirus+