Austria’s mass test drive detects 4,200 asymptomatic cases amid low turnout
Vienna, Dec 14 (efe-epa).- More than 2 million Austrians — 23% of the Alpine country’s 8.9 million residents — took part in a mass testing program that revealed 4,200 asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, the health ministry announced Monday.
The testing project concluded in five of Austria’s federal states on Sunday, having run from 4 December. Two other federal states will wrap up the testing push on Wednesday while Upper Austria and Tyrol will continue to offer free tests.
Rudolf Anschober, the health minister, said in a statement that the mass testing had helped prevent 4,200 asymptomatic carriers from unknowingly infecting others.
“That is the true purpose of these massive tests, to get as many asymptomatic people out of the chain of contagion as possible and thus reduce the infection rate,” he said.
Anschober described it as a “successful step to containing the pandemic in Austria.”
The health ministry plans to run a similar program after Christmas.
Despite the optimism from the government, national participation was well below expectations.
The government had hoped that 60% of the country’s population would step forward to take a test, but every federal state recorded lower than expected numbers.
In the capital Vienna — population 1.8 million — there was a turnout rate of 13.5%.
The government is mulling ways to incentivize people to take a test during the second drive in January.
Austria’s decision to use antigen tests on as many people as possible was inspired by a similar push in neighboring Slovakia and the objective was to paint a clear picture of Covid-19 infection rate on the lead up to Christmas.
The antigen test gives a result in 15 minutes. Those who tested positive for Covid-19 were then cross-checked with a more accurate PCR test.
Austria has a cumulative 14-day incidence rate of around 472 cases per 100,000 people. EFE-EPA