Due to the large interest from the public, the Czech government wants to start free Covid-19 antigen testing for the public from Wednesday.
The PM Andrej Babiš said that 5,200 general practitioners, 6,000 dentists, and 9,000 outpatient specialists could potentially be involved in the testing.
The free Covid testing will be conducted at around 2,000 places, including existing testing centres and doctors’ surgeries.
The country has already started using targeted antigen testing — which is faster and logistically easier than standard PCR tests but not as accurate — in homes for the elderly.
“We want to enable all citizens to be tested voluntarily and free of charge with antigen tests. We said that it will be possible from December 18 to January 15, but due to the great interest of citizens, it looks like the testing can start from Wednesday, December 16,” Babiš said on Facebook.
“Citizens who do not have internet connection can order the test calling 1221,” he added. More details should be announced at Monday’s press conference.
Neighbouring Slovakia has already carried out millions of antigen tests in a campaign at the start of November that covered most of its population. Those that did not take the test were required to go into quarantine.
Czech testing would have no conditions attached, Babis said.
The Czech Republic reported 1,999 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, continuing a trend of showing a weekly rise in infections.
In total, 581,079 cases have been detected since the pandemic started. There are 65,548 active cases currently. The number of hospitalised patients edged up to 4,203.
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.