Wednesday

30th Sep 2020

Coronavirus

EU countries unable to follow WHO's call for mass testing

  • WHO said earlier this week that the cost of the test depends on the country - but ranges from €25 to €55 (Photo: TNS Sofres)

Finland queried on Friday (20 March) the World Health Organization's (WHO) call to massively increase coronavirus tests, after the Nordic country run out of testing capacity this week.

"We don't understand the WHO's instructions for testing. We can't fully remove the disease from the world anymore. If someone claims that, they don't understand pandemics," Finland's head of health security, Mika Salminen, told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The director-general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in New York earlier this week that "we cannot fight this pandemic if we don't know who is infected," calling on countries to test as much as possible.

Testing and traceability strategies "must be the backbone of the response in every country," he warned.

However, according to Salminen, "those who can be sick at home, won't benefit from testing".

"We are not doing as many tests as possible but rather when needed," he added.

As many other European countries face testing shortages, some health authorities across the continent believe that those who do not show any symptoms have no reason to be tested - even if they have been in contact with an infected person.

However, South Korea's experience has shown that diagnostic capacity and contact traceability are essential to minimise the spread of the virus.

With the capacity to test 15,000 people a day, over 316,600 people have been tested in South Korea as of Friday - which amounts to more than 6,150 tests per million inhabitants.

The European way

Italy, which is the most affected country in the European Union, has tested about 150,000 people, according to a report from the Italian ministry of health.

However, Italian authorities, along with researchers at the University of Padua and the Red Cross tested all residents of Vò - a town of 3,000 inhabitants near Venice - in a pilot project that shows the effectiveness to stop the further spread of coronavirus within 14 days.

In Spain, health authorities recently warned that the country does not have enough resources to diagnose all cases of the novel coronavirus and only 30,000 tests have been done since the beginning of the crisis, Spanish newspaper El País reported.

While France said that it can carry out just 2,500 tests a day with prioritisation for healthcare professionals and those who are very sick.

Germany can conduct about 12,000 tests daily, according to the German national association of statutory health insurance physicians.

This could explain why Germany presents the lowest mortality rate among the countries that are most affected by the epidemic - at 0.3 percent compared to Italy's 7.9 percent.

Although the UK is currently doing 4,000 tests per day, the country is considering to increase this figure to 25,000 a day, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday.

Poland recently said that about 1,500 test are being done daily, although the country expects to receive 10,000 test kits from China to increase its capacity.

'More costly to be sick'

Earlier this week, China said it will provide 50,000 testing kits to Europe, as well as protective equipment.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of countries in Europe, such as Germany and Spain, are deploying drive-through testing sites - an option that has helped South Korea to carry out tests faster and better.

A shortage in coronavirus testing kits has been reported worldwide, with many people being denied to have a diagnosis - while the list of famous and powerful people tested keeps growing every day.

WHO said earlier this week that the cost of the test depends on the country, but ranges between €25€ and €55.

"Some countries have to be economical and efficient in using it. It's not cheap, but it's more costly to be sick," said Dorit Nitzan, European coordinator of health emergencies at WHO.

Denmark: How a 'high-tax' state responds to coronavirus

Denmark's response includes financial help to freelancers and students, compensation for fixed expenses such as rent and easier access to state-guaranteed loans. But some worry even with that, two-thirds of small businesses could collapse within 10 weeks.

MEPs vote by email on new coronavirus measures

MEPs will vote via email on emergency legislation to help countries and companies in the wake of the spread of coronavirus. The plenary sessions are to held in Brussels until July instead of Strasbourg.

Coronavirus: Greek island refugees in semi-lockdown

Greece has banned large pubic gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus, while imposing a curfew on thousands of asylum seekers and migrants living in misery in overcrowded camps, with one water tap for 1,300 people at one camp.

Opinion

Beijing using lack of EU 'solidarity' to seize leadership

Italy is not the only European country turning to China for help in fighting the crisis, and the Chinese authorities consistently use European requests for self-aggrandisement. Europe should be wary of being used to advance an authoritarian state's propaganda.

EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m

Several member states are putting forward restrictive Covid-19-related measures to try to control the surge of numbers of coronavirus cases, trying to avoid a second lockdown. Meanwhile, the global death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached one million.

Opinion

Italy has a responsibility, too

Little wonder the leaders of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are unwilling to sign off: they're not going to give money so the Italians can fund a tax cut in the middle of an economic crisis.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Celebrate with us. EUobserver's 20 years of independent EU news
  2. Ban on Catalan leader condemned as 'disproportionate'
  3. EU defends Jourova over Hungary's resignation demand
  4. A 'geopolitical' EU Commission. Great idea - but when?
  5. The EU's new rule of law report - pushing at an open door?
  6. EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m
  7. Reports: Turkey sent Syrian fighters to Azerbaijan
  8. German presidency tries to end EU's rule-of-law battle

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us