Teachers in Linz, Austria, stand by outside a large exhibition hall where they will be tested for COVID-19. It is now Friday, December 4, and educators have followed government calls for testing, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.
Unfortunately, they came out in very good time. Due to an error in the ordering system, the teachers had been called for tests a day or two in advance.
– Often, governments promise a lot, but nothing works, Thomas Stelzer, who belongs to the ÖVP party and serves as governor of Upper Austria, told Die Presse newspaper.
December 1st started mass testing of the new coronavirus that the Austrian government hopes several million people will take part. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the tests helped break the chain of infection, calling the strategy a new chapter in the fight against the pandemic.
“In this way, we want to enable people to celebrate Christmas with their immediate family,” said the Chancellor’s statement on November 20.
The assumption that the spread of infection can be reduced through extensive testing is based on people who are asymptomatic but infectious who have a chance of knowing they carry the infection. These people must then put themselves in quarantine, and thus avoid contact with people they are supposed to be infected with.
In Austria is self-test voluntarily, but the entire population is invited to participate. Those wishing to test themselves had to register via the internet, through a system of criticism that in early December gave Linz teachers the wrong time. Criticism also came from people who were not told they had a negative test result. Additionally, computer systems have leaked personal data of 800 people tested. Technical problems have caused staff at some test stations to switch to physical forms.
Read more: Austria faces a new tough “lockdown”
Also in Slovakia Mass tests were conducted during the fall. In total, two-thirds of the population, 3.6 million people, were tested during the operation which began in October. Regarding the testing, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said the strategy is currently irrelevant in Sweden.
– Then we have to stop testing the many people who really need to be tested. It’s going to be a weird re-priority. That’s great to be able to test, but you need to have an idea why you’re testing. You have to test and detect the infection. After all, this is a snapshot. Those who are healthy today can get sick tomorrow, said Anders Tegnell.
Read more: Maria Gunther of DN: “The corona situation tests my patience”
This spring, state epidemiologists gave a similar answer when the demands for mass testing came from a political standpoint.
– It’s not just about having a lab machine, but you have to have a whole chain around the test to function properly, said Anders Tegnell in March.
Similar objections has also been heard in Austria. Epidemiologist Gerald Gartlehner told Die Presse that the test is not 100 percent safe, and a negative result does not mean people can meet normally.
– I suspect that politicians are only doing this for the sake of that. They want to show residents they are doing something so that everyone has a great Christmas, he said.