With Slovakia and Liverpool opting to test everyone, European countries mull dramatic expansion of COVID testing

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Credit: CNN

Slovakia attempted to test its entire adult population, or every resident between 10 and 65. [COVID] cases have been surging in the country, which borders one of Europe’s worst-hit nations, the Czech Republic, and has been in a lockdown for just over a week.

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The idea of testing an entire community at once has a mixed reception among epidemiologists in Europe, some of whom question whether it is an efficient use of tests that could be used for frequent screening of high-risk personnel: hospital workers, police officers or nursing-home staff.

World Health Organization guidelines encourage governments to track individuals on a case-by-case basis, rather than ask hundreds of thousands or millions of people to be tested at once. But case-by-case detection has broken down in most of Europe, in part because there are too many cases for contact tracers to sort through.

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The surge in testing also doesn’t address one of Europe’s dilemmas in the coronavirus pandemic: People who are exposed to Covid-19 usually disobey orders asking them to stay home for 10 days, according to recent studies.

“Testing itself does not stop the virus from spreading,” said Emma Hodcroft, a molecular epidemiologist at Switzerland’s University of Bern. “Testing gives you a tool in which you can help people to make good behavioral decisions.”

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