Vienna (dpa) – The corona mass tests started in Austria on Friday with technical failures with some keen interest.
The mass-propagated project by the government began on a large scale in the states of Vienna, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. Long lines formed in front of the test stations, at least sometimes.
“We will discover the positive points, that is the aim of the campaign,” said Mayor Georg Willi (Greens) of Innsbruck. The fact that the software supplied by the federal government did not work hardly plays a role. The authorities would know what to do. Citizens praised the organization, which was often perceived as smooth.
The mass test, in which millions of Austrians must be voluntarily screened for the virus, is currently the central anti-corona strategy in the Alpine Republic. The check is performed with a rapid antigen test. If the result is positive, the more accurate PCR test is used to recheck.
In the capital of Austria, thanks to the deployment of the armed forces, an infrastructure has been built in two large halls and the fair, sufficient for 150,000 tests per day. “There is still capacity,” an army spokesman said on the OE24 channel Friday afternoon. Some experts had criticized that a negative result could also create false security and lower the barriers to larger group meetings.
Due to the nearly three-week lockdown, which will be lifted next Monday – at least for retailers, the high number of infections in Austria has recently fallen significantly. Yet the government, made up of the conservative ÖVP and the Greens, is following a more cautious opening course. This also includes travel restrictions during Christmas and New Years. Anyone coming from a risk area, including Germany, should be placed in a ten-day quarantine, which can be terminated with a negative PCR test after the fifth day at the earliest.
Germany has so far rejected such mass tests. The federal and state governments based their strategy on a “highly differentiated recommendation from the Robert Koch Institute,” a spokesman for the federal health ministry in Berlin said on Friday. It says that you need to test specifically and not close. Experts have assured that it is better to “always go where there are cases of infection”. “Mass testing is a flash in the pan,” said Eugen Brysch, the board of the German Patient Protection Foundation. They are useless to protect the population from infection, and at the same time “a lot of money is being burned” for this political activism.
In the case of mass tests, Austria is also based on experiences in neighboring Slovakia with nationwide tests during the All Saints’ Day weekend (31 October and 1 November). Participation was formally voluntary, but those who did not have a negative test were not allowed to work for even two weeks. Therefore, in the first of several rounds of testing alone, 3.6 million of the 5.5 million residents underwent a rapid antigen test.
Given the cost of the millions of tests in Slovakia, there was no longer any capacity to follow up the contacts of those who tested positive. In addition, despite the knowledge that the rapid antigen tests were less reliable, there were no control tests if someone tested positive. In the meantime, Slovakia is gradually deviating from its strategy. The nationwide corona mass testing rescheduled for the first weekend of December has been indefinitely postponed.
Another example of mass testing is the North Italian region of South Tyrol. After a multi-day corona mass test, a positive balance was drawn in the second half of November. In the small Alpine province, more than 350,000 residents had a free smear test. There were lines at the stations for the rapid antigen test. The goal, which is important for success, was achieved precisely – despite the fact that it was voluntary. As many as 3,600 participants (approximately 1 percent) received a positive corona result at the end. You have been quarantined.