Austria starts voluntary mass testing

VIENNA (AP) — Austria has started voluntary mass testing for the coronavirus in a move that officials hope will help prevent long, hard lockdowns in the future.

The fast antigen tests started yesterday in Vienna and in the westernmost Vorarlberg and Tyrol provinces, days before Austria starts loosening tough lockdown measures that have been in place since mid-November. Positive tests will be backed up by conventional tests within 24 hours, and contacts quarantined if they are confirmed.

A special website has been set up for people to register for the tests.

The testing is being handled by the Austrian military, which has set up a big testing facility at the Vienna convention centre with 170 test lanes.

Italy’s South Tyrol province, which borders Austria, already has conducted mass tests — following the example of Slovakia, which moved to slow infections and avoid a second lockdown by testing nearly two-thirds of its people in one weekend last month.