Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia will mobilize thousands of soldiers to test its entire population of 5.5 million for COVID-19, the government announced this week.
Slovakia army to oversee nationwide campaign to test population for COVID-19
In a bid to avoid imposing a second lockdown as the country struggles with a surge in new coronavirus cases, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Igor Matovic unveiled on October 17 plans to conduct a nationwide mass-testing campaign for COVID-19 among the country’s population of 5.45 million.
The government later signaled that as many as 8,000 soldiers could be used nation-wide for the campaign, due to be held during two consecutive week-ends next month (most likely October 30-November 1, and November 6-8).
Slovak military personnel will be overseeing the operation and helping the thousands of health and medical workers in the process, mostly from the logistical point of view. The Slovak government had previously announced it had acquired up to 13 million antigen tests for the purpose of the nationwide testing.
“We have two options”, Matovic stressed to get the population on board. “One is lockdown, the other is nationwide testing”, the Prime Minister, who presumably failed to inform President Zuzana Caputova of his plan, added.
Pilot testing could be held this week in several of the hardest-hit districts in Slovakia.
Will it be mandatory to be tested for COVID-19?
Although unclear at first, Slovak authorities announced that the decision to take part in the nationwide testing will not be mandatory, but voluntary. However, people who refuse to participate will have to self-isolate for ten days.
Testing will be free of charge, and available for anyone – nationals and foreigners – who find themselves on Slovak territory at that time.
Some 5,000 testing points should be set up throughout the country, with results available in the 15 to 30 minutes after the sample has been taken. Anyone testing positive will evidently be instructed to stay in quarantine.
According to a preliminary poll, more than 70% of Slovaks plan to participate, and one-fifth declared that they would not undergo voluntary testing as part of Matovic’s plan.