The Austrian pharmacies offering rapid Covid tests for 20 euros

By Jorge Dastis

Vienna, Dec 1 (efe-epa).- Around a hundred pharmacies in Austria have been offering rapid Covid-19 tests to people without symptoms in a bid to cast a wider net on the country’s infection status.

Marien Apotheke, located in the center of Vienna, pioneered the program and has offered the tests since October, before government regulation was in place.

In fact, authorities temporarily brought the program to a halt because of this.

Since then, the pharmacy’s results have convinced health authorities that the process is safe and useful.

Nowadays, more than a hundred pharmacies in the country are offering rapid antigen tests.

Karin Simonitsch, the proprietor of the Marien Apotheke, said that when they first started the program they had to consult a lawyer on the requirements, given there were no national regulations in place.

Another question, she added, was whether it was hygienic to conduct the testing inside a pharmacy.

She told Efe that they had to prepare a separate room especially for the tests, which customers could access without passing through the main shop.

The tests are administered by medical students who have received special training.

“For them, it’s a very good chance to talk to and interact with people, because it’s training for their future job.”

According to Simonitsch, the example set by Marien Apotheke led to the adoption of national regulation on in-pharmacy testing in November.

A test at Marien Apotheke costs 20 euros ($24) and the process takes just seconds. One worker takes the sample and two others analyze it and process the results.

If it comes back negative, the customer will receive an email that day informing them. If it is positive, the pharmacy will call them immediately and consult the authorities to organize a PCR test, which is more accurate than the antigen test.

Around 300 people take the test at the pharmacy every day, and around 1% on average have come back positive.

The test, manufactured in the Netherlands, has a sensitivity rate of 98%.

Austria managed to weather the first wave of Covid-19 relatively well but the second wave forced the government to enact drastic limits to social freedoms, including the closure of non-essential businesses and schools.

Simonitsch said the tests in the pharmacy are just as safe as those the government will use in its mass-testing program this week, a bid to screen the population en masse to get a better picture of the situation.

“Now, a lot of people are coming for Christmas,” she said, adding that people wanted to take the test before visiting relatives.

“We call it the ‘hug test,’ because once you’ve done it you know that in at least a couple of hours you can hug someone.” EFE

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