European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday the EU’s administrative arm will spend $117 million on rapid COVID-19 tests as the virus surges across Europe.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Von der Leyen said unlike last spring, when the pandemic first began, every European country is feeling the effects of a second wave of the virus. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control says the virus continues to spread throughout the continent.
The agency reports almost 6.5 million people have contracted the virus in the EU member countries, plus Britain, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Von der Leyen says they are purchasing rapid antigen tests as another tool to help bring COVID-19 under control. The finger-prick antigen tests are not considered to be as reliable as the standard nasal-swab "PCR test,” but they work much more quickly, with results available at the testing point within 15 minutes.
European health experts say the virus is now moving too quickly to rely on tests that can take days.
Von der Leyen also urged member state leaders to improve information-sharing about the virus, saying that will help identify where extra intensive care unit capacity might be found and better organize cross-border patient care.
Von der Leyen also called on member states to begin preparing national vaccination plans, and to review them now at the EU level. She said they all need to be prepared for the arrival of the first vaccine, which in the best-case scenarios could begin arriving sometime in April in monthly 20 million to 50 million dose deliveries.