The Czech Republic Wednesday launched nationwide COVID-19 testing in hopes of slowing the spread of virus in the country, which, like much of Europe, has seen a surge of infections in recent weeks.
The Czech Health Ministry is offering the free antigen tests at about 170 testing sites around the country. The antigen tests are cheaper and faster but somewhat less accurate than standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) laboratory tests with results taking about 15 minutes. If someone tests positive, the ministry will administer a PCR test.
The Health Ministry hopes to conduct 60,000 tests per day. The ministry’s web site says people can get tested repeatedly, every five days. Thousands registered for the first day of tests Wednesday.
The Czech Republic experienced Europe's biggest per-capita spikes in cases in October and November, and nearly 10,000 deaths in the country of 10.7 million.
Criticized for its slow response to the pandemic, the government recently implemented COVID-19 restrictions, closing bars, restaurants and hotels, and imposing an overnight curfew.
The country reported 5,315 new cases a day on average in the past week using the standard PCR tests, while the number of hospitalized patients grew to 4,632 from 4,475 a week ago.