Minister outlines plan for up to 25,000 Covid-19 tests a day

Photo: ČTK/Jaroslav Ožana

The number of people tested for Covid-19 in the Czech Republic looks set to increase. The minister of health says that up to 25,000 tests could be carried out daily, adding that this will prove useful when the country is also hit by regular winter illnesses.

The Czech minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, presented his department’s national strategy for coronavirus testing at a news briefing on Thursday morning, telling the assembled journalists that it would prove particularly valuable later this year.

“Efforts are being made to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for a potential second wave, though I believe it will actually be a continuation of the first wave. In autumn there will be a major rise in newly diagnosed patients. We know that every year around a million people get various respiratory infections, with symptoms that are very similar to Covid-19. So it’s necessary to state very clearly what laboratory capacity will be.”

At present the country’s labs are able to handle around 17,000 tests for Covid-19 every day.

Adam Vojtěch, photo: ČTK/Roman Vondrouš

However, that figure will be increased to up to 25,000 under the national testing strategy, which envisages a central network of testing centres and laboratories, supported by other facilities, such as regional hospitals.

“We cannot rely on the central network alone. Secondary, backup laboratories will also be used, if required. But in the first phase we want the central network to be clear – with at least one lab in each region.”

At present there are around 100 labs carrying out Covid-19 tests in the Czech Republic, the majority of them private.

Under the new system, when flu and cold season arrives and waiting rooms start filling up, priority will be given to certain high-risk patients.

Minister Vojtěch said the factors to be considered would include the presence of comorbidity or chronic diseases and if, for instance, somebody had had a serious disease and undergone immunosuppressive therapy.

And all of those who do have samples taken shouldn’t have to wait longer than two days for the results, he said.

“The central labs need to be ready to carry out tests seven days a week and there shouldn’t be any delays. If a sample reaches one of these labs it should be processed within a maximum of 48 hours. That time limit was set on April 17 but, unfortunately, it is not always met. That’s why we’ve created the central network – to deliver that guarantee.”

The minister of health also said it was necessary to continue carrying out studies of collective immunity in the Czech population and to monitor how, and whether, immunity to Covid-19 is developing in this country.