Austria is the world champion in corona testing – but does it really do much good?
With permanent tests, the government wants to fish infected people out of the masses. But some experts doubt the point of the exercise – and fear rampant recklessness as a result.
Austria is the world champion in Corona virus:
Hardly any of the government’s public appearances can do without this self-praise!
The claim is not made up out of thin air, because Austria is actually among the global leaders in this discipline. Most recently, more than 1.5 million Covid tests per week took place in this country.
But what is the point of this exercise?
If you are looking for an optimistic answer, Oswald Wagner is the right person to ask. The vice rector of the Medical University of Vienna, who also advises the government, believes mass testing is a recipe for sparing society lockdowns.
If enough people were continuously checked to see if they were carrying the virus unnoticed, the one percent of infected people could be found: “The remaining 99 percent would then no longer have to give up their freedoms.”
However, this strategy is not uncontroversial. “So far, mass testing hasn’t proven effective in pushing down infection rates,” says Günter Weiss, head of the Department of Internal Medicine and a member of the Ministry of Health’s advisory board: “I doubt it will make much of a contribution to managing the pandemic.”
Limited hit rate
Weiss cites the limited hit rate – or, as the expert puts it, sensitivity – of the mainly used rapid antigen tests as a crucial weakness. These only respond when the viral load in the body has reached a relatively high level. Thus, it is possible that infected people deliver a negative test, but at the same time or one or two days later are already infectious.
But politicians’ messages largely ignore this risk, says the infectiologist, who says citizens only ever hear that they can “freite” themselves for going out to eat, for going to the hairdresser, for meeting friends. “Those cases that were fished out thanks to the tests, we get back on the other side because people behave more carelessly,” he fears. “When thousands crowd the Danube Canal in Vienna on a warm afternoon, it doesn’t help much if I test big beforehand.”
Source + Photo: Der Standard