Saturday , July 2 2022

That is why Austria is mass-testing its population before Christmas


The teachers in Linz, Austria, are ready outside the large exhibition hall where they will be tested for covid-19. It is Friday, December 4, and the educators have followed the government’s call to do a test, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

Unfortunately, they are out in very good time. Due to an error in the booking system, the teachers have been called for testing one or two days in advance.

– As so often, the government promises a lot, but nothing works, says Thomas Stelzer, who belongs to the party ÖVP and serves as governor of Upper Austria, to the newspaper Die Presse.

In Vienna, the population can test themselves in three different places.  Exhibition halls and arenas are used as test centers around the country.

In Vienna, the population can test themselves in three different places. Exhibition halls and arenas are used as test centers around the country.

Photo: Georg Hochmuth / AFP

On December 1st began the mass testing of the new coronavirus that the Austrian government hopes millions of people will take part in. Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says the tests are helping to break chains, and calls the strategy a new chapter in the fight against the pandemic.

“In this way, we want to make it possible for people to celebrate Christmas with their immediate family,” was a statement from the Chancellor on November 20.

The assumption that the spread of infection is reduced through a broad test is based on people who are asymptomatic but infectious having the chance to discover that they are carrying an infection. These people should then put themselves in quarantine, and thus avoid coming into contact with people they could otherwise have infected.

In Austria is it is voluntary to test oneself, but the whole population is invited to participate. Those who want to test themselves must register via the internet, via the criticized system which in early December gave the teachers in Linz an incorrect time. Criticism has also come from people who have not been informed that they have received a negative test result. In addition, the computer system has leaked personal data from 800 of those tested. The technical problems have led staff at several test stations to switch to using physical forms.

Read more: Austria faces new hard “lockdown”


Vienna’s “Stadthalle” has become a temporary test center.

Photo: Alex Halada / AFP

Also in Slovakia Mass tests have been carried out during the autumn. In total, two thirds of the population, 3.6 million people, were tested during the operation, which began in October. In connection with the testing, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that the strategy is currently not relevant in Sweden.

– Then we would have to stop testing a lot of people who really need to be tested. It would be a strange re-prioritization. It is good to be able to test, but you must have an idea of ​​why you are testing. You have to test and detect infection. It is, after all, a snapshot. Those who were healthy today can get sick tomorrow, said Anders Tegnell.

Read more: DN’s Maria Gunther: “The corona situation tests my patience”

Testing on assembly lines in Vienna.

Testing on assembly lines in Vienna.

Photo: Georg Hochmuth / AFP

This spring, the state epidemiologist gave similar answers when demands for mass tests came from a political point of view.

– It’s not just about having a lab machine, but you have to have the whole chain around testing in place for it to work properly, Anders Tegnell said in March.

Similar objections has also been heard in Austria. Epidemiologist Gerald Gartlehner tells Die Presse that the tests are not one hundred percent safe, and that a negative result does not mean that people can meet as usual.

– I suspect that politicians only do this for the sake of it. They want to show the population that they are doing something so that everyone has a nice Christmas, he says.

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