Coronavirus: Czechs queue for hours to be tested, join ‘collective immunity’ study

Photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

Thousands of Czechs – far more than anticipated – turned out at temporary coronavirus testing sites on Thursday to take part in a study aimed at determining the incidence of Covid-19 in the population. In response, the Ministry of Health has extending testing for the ‘collective immunity’ study.

Photo: ČTK/Michal Kamaryt

On the first day of sampling for the ‘collective immunity’ study, just shy of 3,900 people were tested at stations in Prague, Brno and Litoměřice, a town in northern Bohemia. In Prague, the daily capacity was met even before the sampling began, while in Brno, the target was met in a matter of hours.

Undoubtedly, many volunteered in hopes not only of testing negative for Covid-19 but of learning they had recovered from it, and developed antibodies – immunity. In response to the turnout, particularly high among middle-aged people and seniors, the testing will be extended, Deputy Minister of Health Roman Prymula told reporters.

“Given the huge interest shown at (Prague’s) Kateřinská Garden testing site, I have a positive message for our seniors: we will extend the opportunity to participate in this study so that they can come one to two days after this study is officially completed so we can test the rest of applicants.”

Roman Prymula,  photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
The government estimates in needs to conduct fewer than 27,000 tests in order to obtain a representative sample of the population. As scheduled, testing began on Friday in the Moravian towns of Uničov and Litovel, which some weeks ago were briefly under quarantine due to a high incidence rate, and to the nearby city of Olomouc.

In the Moravian locations, full blood samples are being collected. In Prague, Brno and Litoměřice, individual tests entail just a simple finger-prick, or so-called “rapid-test”, the results of which are ready in less than 20 minutes.

On Thursday, however, the queueing itself took well over an hour at peak points of the day. Turnout was so great, ironically guidelines on social distancing – keeping two metresfrom others – was hard to respect. There were reports of the odd shouting and shoving match, and Army soldiers on hand were enlisted to ensure order.

A reservation system has now been put in place to eliminate queues, with each participant given a set time for an appointment. But Martin Masopust, who is managing sampling points in Olomouc, told Czech Radio people should not count on everything going like clockwork.

“There is a reservation system, but it is necessary to count on possible delays. The process may also speed up, so the system is a bit flexible. But we will operate through the weekend, do whatever it takes until the task is completed.”

Covid-19 symptoms can include fever, difficulty breathing, muscle pain, fatigue and nausea. But the number and percentage of asymptomatic persons with the disease is unknown. The collective immunity study in part hopes to identity those who have unknowingly recovered and built up antibodies.

Czechs between the ages of 8 and 89, as well as foreigners with temporary or permanent residency, can take part in the study, provided they have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 and show no signs of infection.