Army to help mass Covid-19 testing in Slovakia

The Slovak government on Sunday approved plans to use up to 8,000 armed forces personnel to support mass testing of the population for COVID-19 as it battles a surge of infections, Reuters reported. The government wants to avoid harsh lockdowns again after a costly economic hit in the second quarter. PM Igor Matovic said high testing turnout would help avoid this threat.

The country of 5.5m wants to test people over the age of 10 over two weekends from 30 October using so-called antigen tests, although it is still undecided whether the tests will be mandatory.

The government will launch a pilot phase in the most affected regions on 23 October, and it has ordered around 13m antigen tests, which produce faster results but are often less accurate than standard PCR tests.

Slovakia has tightened restrictions, including banning indoor dining and closing many public venues, as it faces a bigger surge in cases than in the first wave of the pandemic, when it used strict lockdowns to keep the virus's spread relatively low compared to European neighbours.

The country reported 1,567 new infections on Saturday and passed 2,000 cases in a single day for the first time on Thursday.

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