Worldwide first experiment – Slovakia Tests Entire Population for COVID-19

About Slovakia

Slovakia is a small country in the heart of Europe. Total population 5,5 million. The former communist country, member of the EU since May the 1st 2004, implementing EURO from 2008 is now one of the fast-developing members, but still far away from the former EU countries.

COVID in Slovakia

Concerning COVID, Slovakia was one of the most successful countries in the first wave. The daily increase of illnesses was far under 100, the deceased under 50 and the total ill people was less than 1000. Slovakia introduced the lock-down around this Easter which significantly helped to stabilize the illness in the country.
The COVID measures were not significantly released even during the Summer. The number of participants of mass event was limited to 1000 in the exterior and 500 in the interior, a limited number of guests in the restaurants and bars (which significantly endamaged the gastro industry), traveling was restricted.
Despite all these measures, the number of cases started to rise significantly and from the beginning of October, the number of cases was doubled within a week.


Present situation

Slovakia, as the first world country, introduces combined Lockdown. First of all, the movement of citizens was restricted except visiting the medical assistance, going to school (but only daily nursery and elementary school), going to work, shopping only basic food and few other exceptions. This was the first part of the measures. The second part was the country wide COVID testing.

What is country-wide testing?

Slovak government wants to get control of COVID and decided to test of all population. Since the testing itself brings some risks of infection, there are exception from testing like children under 10 years, old people over 65, ill people, etc. Government will use Antigene tests, where the result is known within 30 minutes.

They are not exact but will allow the government to monitor the virus outbreaks. But, the government did not announce the exact measures that will happen after the results are known.

Problems with testing preparation

The Slovak government announced mass testing only 2 weeks prior the mass testing and the responsibility is on military services. Militaries not because there will be expected some counteraction, but because military s the only institution, which is well organized and can manage such a huge action.

In fact, the mass COVID action is the biggest and the most challenging event in the Slovak history. One can argue, that election are similar in comparison to the size, but with 3 major differences:

  1. the election is happening every 4-5 years, there are established clear processes and structures and they are prepared months in advance
  2. elections do not require special measures concerning the distance between people, people do not need to wait for the results
  3. elections do not require the strong representation of medical staff.

Major problems of testing

This article is published on Sunday night, the first day of testing. The biggest problems were with drive-through testing. Since the weather was not very favorable (light rain in the morning), many people decided to use drive-through testing and wait in the car. The ques were from 5 hours up to 10 hours. Police had to cancel some testing centers because the majority of passengers would not be tested by 22:00, which is close to the Saturday testing. The worst situation was in big cities.

First day of testing

This article is published on Sunday night, the first day of testing. The ques of non-vehicle citizens were from a few minutes up to about 2 hours. Since big cities had more centers, people can choose the ones with the shortest queue. The weather had changed about lunchtime, raining stopped and the temperature was about 12 degrees (Celsius).

Despite some problems at the beginning, the testing was considered a success. The teams (especially established for this testing exercise) we harmonized and they succeeded to test about 30 to 60 people per hour.

Here are images and videos from testing:

What is next?

Since the accuracy of the antigene test is very low (and might not reveal infected persons) the government decided to repeat the test the next weekend. Anyway, the first day of testing revealed about 10.000 infected people, which is about 3x more than the standard daily limit. So, if the tests will reveal 20.000 infected people, they will go to quarantine, this will slow down the spread of the disease. I will write the article the next week to inform you about the results after 2 rounds.