Half Of Slovakia's Population Was Tested For COVID-19 In A Single Day As Europe Fights A Second Wave

The small European nation of Slovakia is boasting an incredible achievement in fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic: getting almost half the nation tested in a single day.

According to The Guardian, nearly 50 percent of the country was tested in just 24 hours during a two-day testing drive orchestrated by the government. If the second day is as successful as the first, it is possible that the entire nation could be covered.

Slovakian authorities have claimed that they believe knowing who has the disease will help stop the spread of the deadly virus as a second wave continues to sweep through Europe. The government also hopes the ambitious move will help avoid harsh lockdown measures that have gripped other nations.

For example, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson just announced a strict four-week lockdown throughout England. Similarly, the French government recently decided to close down Paris, causing record numbers in traffic as residents attempted to flee the city, per the BBC.

Slovakia's scheme is being closely watched by other nations who are hoping to balance health and safety with a more open economy. Officials have expressed their aim to test as many of their 5.5 million citizens as possible, excluding children under 10. The weekend's task required more than 40,000 medics to administer the swab tests, in addition to a number of soldiers, police officers, and other administrative workers to help orchestrate the event. There were around 5,000 sites set up around the country to reach all residents.

According to Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď, 2.58 million Slovaks took a test on Saturday. Of that number, around 25,850 -- which comes to just one percent -- tested positive and were required to go into quarantine.

Slovakia's infection rate is relatively low and is better than almost every U.S. state, except Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Hawaii.

A woman gets tested for COVID-19.
Getty Images | Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

Though the test-drive was free and technically voluntary, those who did not participate are legally required to go into quarantine, even if it means missing work.

"Freedom must go together with responsibility toward those who... are the weakest among us, oncology patients, old people, people with other diseases," declared Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovič in a news conference on the matter.

That said, health experts have warned that a negative result does not always mean a patient does not have COVID-19, as the early stages of the disease might have viral loads too small to pick up.

"A negative test on day two doesn't mean you're negative, so what is the value of that?" explained U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, per CNBC.

"It doesn't mean on day four you can go out and visit grandma or day six go without a mask," he added in a warning for citizens to remain cautious and avoid engaging in "risky behavior."