Slovakia on Saturday begins a programme to screen its entire population for coronavirus with antigen tests in what would be a global first , but critics have said the plan is poorly thought out .
Some 45 , 000 medical workers , army and police are being deployed to carry out the tests in the EU member state of 5 . 4 million people, collecting swabs at around 5 , 000 testing points.
“ The world will be watching ,” Prime Minister Igor Matovic said earlier this week , adding that the measure would save “ hundreds of lives” .
Antigen tests give quick results sometimes within minutes but are not seen as being as reliable as the PCR test for which nasal swabs have to be sent to a lab for analysis.
Participation in the testing is not mandatory but anyone who is not able to produce a negative test certificate if stopped by police could get a heavy fine .
Anyone who tests positive has to go immediately into quarantine for 10 days .
“ This will be our road to freedom , ” Matovic said , hinting that virus restrictions could be eased once testing is complete or reinforced if the programme is not carried out in full .
Slovakia would be the first country of its size to undergo nationwide testing , although mass testing has taken place in entire Chinese cities.