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Czechs rush to get tested as government launches collective immunity project

Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic launched on Thursday morning a nation-wide project to determine more precisely the level of Covid-19 infection and analyze the collective immunity in the population.

Czech Republic launches nation-wide herd immunity project

At the time of writing, the Czech Republic had around 7,100 confirmed cases of infection, while the death toll exceeded 200.

The herd immunity project launched on Thursday aims to determine what share of the Czech population is or has been infected with the virus and thus determine the level of collective immunity. Overall, around 27,000 people will be tested as part of this project, including certain pre-determined target groups identified by the Czech Statistical Office and Academy of Sciences to get a representative sample of the population.

In Prague, 5,000 people will be tested, including 1,500 between the ages of 8 and 17, 1,500 between the ages of 18 and 39, 1,500 between the ages of 40 and 59 and 1,000 more between the ages of 60 and 89. The results take approximately ten to fifteen minutes to be known.

But researchers have purposely chosen regions with widely varying epidemiological situations, from Prague, where the infection rate is highest (123 per 100,000), to South Moravia where the infection rate stands at less than 40 / 100,000 people.

However, Czech authorities have encouraged anyone who wishes to take part in the project to get tested in one of the authorized testing points in the countries – a call that didn’t go unheeded.

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Czechs queue in front of a testing site in Prague while respecting social distancing guidelines. Credit: ČTK / Kamaryt Michal

Testing points capacity full after 15 minutes

As the Czech News Agency reported, long queues of hundreds of people had already formed in testing sites in Prague, Brno and Litomerice this morning, while the daily testing capacities of some testing points had already been filled only 15 minutes after opening.

“The interest exceeded all our expectations”, Aleksi Šedo, dean of the First Faculty of Medicine, told reporters.

The results of the study, which should be known at the beginning of May, will help the government determine which actions to take and whether or not to amend its current lockdown exit strategy, in one way or the other.

“From the epidemiological point of view, it would be better news if the exposure of the population to the infection was higher”, deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula explained, adding that a rise in the number of infections should be expected if the collective immunity is low.

What is herd immunity?

Herd immunity describes the phenomenon where most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, thus protecting those who aren’t and keeping the virus from spreading. Experts believe that, depending on the contagiousness of a given disease, between 70 to 90% of the population needs to be immune (in other words, to have been infected and recovered) to be able to achieve collective immunity.

A few countries, including Sweden, haven’t introduced strict Covid-19 lockdown procedures or restrictions in order to achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible – an approach that has divided public opinion and experts for weeks, all the more so considering that it’s still uncertain whether people who have contracted the virus are immune, and for how long.

Main photo credit: ČTK / Ondřej Hájek

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