Thousands sign up for antigen test for free ahead of Christmas

Photo: Michaela Danelová, Czech Radio

As of Wednesday, December 16, members of the public will be able to get an antigen test for Covid-19 for free at one of the 2,000 testing sites around the country. The decision, approved by the government on Monday, is aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus which may be further fuelled by increased socializing over the Christmas holidays. Interest in the offer is overwhelming.

Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Fears that Czechs might not show an interest in the free tests offered by the government appear to have been unfounded. In fact the interest in getting a test was such that the government decided to bring the start of testing forward by two days in order to accommodate as many people as possible.  18,000 people have already signed up, and all vacancies have reportedly been filled until Christmas.

The country’s chief hygiene officer Jarmila Rážová says there are several reasons why antigen tests were selected. In addition to being much cheaper and faster than PCR tests, with a result in around twenty minutes, they are ideally suited to the given purpose:

Jarmila Rážová,  photo: Pavel Kozler,  Czech Radio

“Antigen tests are very reliable in detecting people in the infectious stage of the illness, while PCR tests also detect remnants of the virus in people who have undergone Covid 19 but are no longer infectious. By detecting people in the infectious stage we are helping to curb the spread of the epidemic.”

Ms. Rážová urged people going home for the holidays or visiting elderly parents to get the test done as close to the time they will be going as possible. She also stressed the need to adhere to the recommended safety rules - such as wearing a facemask, observing social distancing and using sanitizers in the time left before the visit –and indeed at all times.

Illustrative photo: shameersrk,  Pixabay / CC0

A positive result in people with symptoms is considered confirmation of Covid -19, in people without symptoms the result must be confirmed by a PCR test.

People who want the test must register at one of the 2,000 testing sites around the country-existing testing centres, GPs or even dentists, who are being urged to get involved in order to facilitate the process. People will need an ID card and their health insurance card since the test is fully covered by health insurance.

Petr Šonka,  photo: Czech TV

GPs willing to help out with the scheme and perform the test on their patients will receive 350 crowns per test. However their participation is voluntary. Petr Šonka, chairman of the Association of General Practitioners, says that not all of them can meet the necessary hygiene requirements or have enough time so as not to neglect patients with other health concerns.

The free testing is to run until January 15 and people will be allowed to undergo one test in five days.