Greece to hand out self-testing kits as COVID-19 cases stay high

FILE PHOTO: A member of the medical staff treats a patient at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Sotiria hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens, Greece

Greece will start distributing free do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests next month, the government said on Saturday, as it seeks to alleviate pressure on a healthcare system facing a stubbornly high level of new infections.

Everyone with a social security number will be entitled to four of the test kits per month, and they will be distributed at pharmacies.

“It is a new tool in the country’s battle against the pandemic. The tests will allow better epidemiological monitoring, and of course prevention,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

The government said the do-it-yourself test kits have an accuracy rate of about 95%-99%. They are easier to do than rapid tests, needing nasal and saliva samples instead of the nasopharyngeal sample used in rapid tests.

People who get a positive result will be instructed to report it to health authorities for the monitoring and tracing of COVID-19 infections.

The government said Greece would be the first European country to make such test kits so easily available and free of charge.

Greece will lift some COVID-19 lockdown restrictions next week as part of a plan to gradually reopen the economy and relieve national fatigue even as its hospitals remain under severe pressure.

On Friday, health authorities reported 2,785 new coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, bringing total infections to 233,079 since the first case was detected in February last year and the death toll to 7,361.

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