Coronavirus in Slovakia: innovative solutions
Slovakia became the first country in the EU which closed its borders in March 2020. The fact is that the Slovak government analyzed the data of mobile operators and saw that about 40,000 people during the last month went to northern Italy. At that moment there was the first European sickness center. The solution was simple – to close the borders and quarantine everyone. Thanks to these measures, the country survived the first wave of the virus relatively calmly and the number of cases was estimated at several thousand within months.
The second wave of the virus, as elsewhere in Europe, came to Slovakia at the beginning of autumn, the daily number of cases began to count in the thousands. The percentage of tests performed and cases detected were more than 10. The most difficult day in terms of statistics was October 29, when on the territory of Slovakia (5.5 million population) identified 3363 positive cases.
Due to the rapid increase in the number of cases and the inability to trace social contacts, the Slovak government, headed by Prime Minister Igor Matovic, decided to conduct antigen testing of the entire population of the country from 10 to 65 years old. It should be noted, that Slovakia became the first country in the world to conduct such an experiment.
Within 2 days, 3.5 million people were tested: in the most difficult regions in the Tatras, about 3% of the population had a positive test, in some regions the percentage was 0.13%.
In Bratislava, the percentage of cases averaged 0.3% – that is, approximately 1,500 people for every 500,000. The national average was 1%.
People who tested positive or didn’t take part in testing went to a 10-day home quarantine, which was paid by the insurance company and they received a regular sick leave payment.
In those regions where the percentage of positive cases was more than 0.7, the testing was repeated.
This made it possible to reduce the number of new cases in the country by 2-2.5 times within a month. At the moment (11/26/2020) during the last 7 days, the number of positive cases ranged from 231 to 1953.
How was testing with antigen tests arranged:
The Slovak government has purchased 13 million tests that give a result within 15 minutes. They cannot be equated with PCR tests, which show high accuracy but are suitable for quick detection. In every city, town, village, were put mobile points, where citizens of Slovakia or those who live in Slovakia with a residence permit came, showed the documents and they were sent for analysis. When the result was ready, everyone received a sealed envelope, opening which they learned about the result. Those whose result was negative, from that moment on, could freely move around the country (before that, a 24-hour curfew was in effect for a week). Those whose result was positive were sent to a 10-day home quarantine with their families or with flat/housemates.
The antigen test itself is similar to PCR – a nasal swab is taken with a tube and dipped into a special solution, within 15 minutes the test shows the result: positive or negative.
At the moment, several more stages of testing with antigen tests are planned before Christmas, we will see the results. However, it can be said with confidence that the fact that Slovakia first conducted mass testing and sent tens of thousands of people with positive results to home isolation allows it to remain the only country in the EU with a significant decline in the number of cases without a strict lockdown and imposition of a curfew. At the moment, only among our neighboring countries, albeit with restrictions, are open shopping centers, café terraces, fitness clubs, and even rare, but Christmas markets.