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.

Related article:  Flu season threatens to overwhelm doctors and hospitals swamped by COVID

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.

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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