Easy, quick and free: Vienna’s Covid-19 drive-through testing streets

By Antonio Sánchez Solís

Vienna, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- One of Elisabeth’s colleagues tested positive Covid-19. Anna’s relative also caught coronavirus. Maria has just returned from abroad. All three have come to get tested for free at one of two “testing streets” (“Teststrassen”) in the Austrian capital.

The first of these drive-through testing centers was opened in mid-August for holidaymakers returning from Croatia, a favored summer destination for millions of Austrians, which towards the end of summer became a hotspot for infections.

The center has since expanded its operations to provide rapid, free tests for anyone arriving from abroad, or even other parts of the country, as well as for those who have been in contact with a confirmed positive case.

The first of these testing streets, set up outside the Ernst Happel national football stadium, the largest in the country. A second was opened in late September, on an island in the Danube which runs through Vienna.

“We have done 55,000 tests so far, out of which some 5,000 have been positive. We have been able to identify many positive cases that we have been able to isolate and stop the spread of Covid-19 in Vienna,” Corina Had, spokesperson for the city’s crisis management taskforce, tells Efe.

The centers are open Monday to Sunday from 6am to 9pm, both for pedestrians and vehicles. Waiting times can vary between 20 minutes and several hours.

Austria has developed a PCR test that is less invasive on the patient than most: rather than using a nasal swab, which many complain of being very unpleasant, Viennese residents are tested for Covid-19 by gargling an oral solution for 30 seconds before spitting it into a test tube, that the patient themselves must seal and return to the health worker administering the test. The solution is then screened for traces of coronavirus.

The test is free for all residents of the capital city and for those who have returned from a country considered at risk by the Austrian government, for those who have spent more than four days in another part of the country as well as those who have been in contact with a confirmed case.

“My boss told me ‘better safe than sorry’ and that it was best I get tested, otherwise I might infect the whole office,” Elisabeth tells Efe.

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