Hospital laboratory via Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay

Czech COVID-19 Central Control Team plans blanket testing in sample of Prague population

Epidemiologist Roman Prymula plans to introduce blanket testing for the novel coronavirus in a sample of the Czech population to measure the infection's extent

Prague, April 1 (CTK) – Testing of the novel coronavirus in a sample of 5,000 Prague inhabitants will be introduced in order to measure the infection’s extent on the Czech population, COVID-19 Central Control Team head and Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula told Czech Television (CT) today.

He said he would like to realise the plan as soon as possible, probably next week.

Prymula told Czech Radio (CRo) earlier today that another testing project is being prepared for the Litovel area in the Olomouc Region, which was in quarantine after a high number of cases was detected there in March.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech (for ANO) said no blanket testing of the whole population is planned. “We do not consider it efficient and the capacities are limited,” he told reporters.

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The testing in Prague will be carried out by Charles University. Prymula discussed the issue with representatives of the university’s 1st Faculty of Medicine.

Prymula said the testing would be carried out to gain information about the infected persons without clinical symptoms, their number and types.

Several things still need to be done before the testing can start. “At the moment, a protocol is being prepared by people at the Olomouc (central Moravia) Faculty of Medicine and its research institutions. I expect it to be ready on Thursday or on Friday. Then, we will need the ethics commission to approve it,” Prymula said.

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A similar representative sample of the population is used, for instance in polls, conducted on a sample of about 1000 people of both sexes, from various age groups, with various education levels and living in different municipalities.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD), who heads the Central Crisis Staff, told CRo that rapid tests will be used for the testing.

This type of tests may not reveal the infection, however, since they detect antibodies that may not have had enough time to develop since the tested individual was infected.

Prymula said that since the speed tests are not completely reliable on their own, they will be complemented by PCR tests that detect the RNA of the virus.

“The sanitary officers were informed already and we transported 22,000 testing sets to the area. We want to know how many people there got in contact with the virus,” Prymula said.

Vojtech said that in his opinion instead of blanket testing, which was not on the agenda of the day, it was necessary at the moment to focus on testing high-risk groups and clinical cases that are showing COVID-19 symptoms.

He also said the testing in the critical localities in the Olomouc region would take place, but that he would then like to focus on testing social workers.

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