Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček reckons that starting in January, Czechs will only have to pass an antigen test to be able to travel to the surrounding countries. The same should apply when citizens return to the Czech Republic.
“We have already launched negotiations with Slovakia, Austria and Germany. An agreement is very close. Austria, in particular, is in favor of this. However, we expect that the change will take place only after the New Year because, for example, Austria has a lockdown lasting until the tenth of January,” said Petříček.
The ministry plans to negotiate a concurrent date with Slovakia and Germany.
“In the case of Germany, I am convinced that we will be able to remove the remaining issues so that we can also recognize antigen tests for travel in mid-January. We are working very intensively on this with the Ministry of Health,” added the Czech Foreign Minister.
The new procedure would not be fundamentally different from the current one.
“In addition to PCR tests, we would also allow the use of antigen tests. For people to be able to travel to neighboring Austria, for example, they would take the test and be allowed to enter the territory of Austria within 48 hours,” explained Petříček.
The minister stated that it should work the same way in the case of citizens returning to the Czech Republic, and, in such a case, it should be possible to take the test on the territory of the Czech Republic.
What are antigen tests and what can they tell us?
An antigen test reveals if a person is currently infected with a pathogen such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once the infection has gone, the antigen disappears.
Unlike nucleic acid-based tests such as PCR, which detect the presence of genetic material, antigen tests detect proteins or glycans, such as the spike proteins found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Accuracy can also be a problem, with antigen tests typically having a much lower sensitivity than PCR.
However, they usually provide test results rapidly, are relatively cheap, and can be more amenable to point-of-care use, which could make them more suitable for testing in the community and in remote regions.