Ljubljana – Slovenia is further restricting the use of PCR tests as of Tuesday with a new testing protocol under which rapid antigen tests will be enough to confirm a coronavirus infection. The certificate of recovery obtained in this way will only be valid in Slovenia for now, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said, indicating changes in this area as well.
By acknowledging rapid antigen test results as enough to confirm an infection, Slovenia is following the example of a dozen other European countries, the minister told a Covid press briefing on Monday, noting that Germany and Austria were also considering taking this step to help lift some of the burden off the laboratories analysing PCR samples.
PCR tests for travelling purposes will continue to be conducted as a payable service.
According to the minister, people who test negative in a rapid test despite signs of infection will need to self-isolate for 72 hours. If the symptoms persist, the person will take another rapid test and if the test is negative, they will visit a doctor in case of any problems.
If the test is positive, the infection is confirmed and the person receives the Slovenian digital Covid certificate.
The decision on who will still need to do a PCR test will be made by a GP. Vulnerable groups, such as patients with chronic disease, pregnant women, people with a weak immune system and children who are at risk of developing severe symptoms, will still be referred to PCR testing, Poklukar said.
The new Slovenian digital certificate will for the time being be used only in Slovenia but given some announcements and the fact that half of EU countries are switching to this new testing protocol, rapid antigen tests will probably soon be accepted as a valid mode to confirm a Covid infection Europe-wide, the minister said.
“We are counting on most of these (Slovenian) certificates to be in the future issued as European certificates of recovery,” he said.
The minister also noted that the new testing protocol was temporary and in place while the number of daily infections is high.
General practitioners have welcomed the new testing protocol, noting that they currently dealt with significantly more Covid patients, which meant that patients with other diseases had restricted access to doctors.
In line with the new protocol, people with mild Covid symptoms will have access to diagnostics without the help of their doctors as most of the infected actually do not need a doctor, said Irena Vatovec, director of the Postojna Community Health Centre.
Paediatrician Denis Baš added that paediatricians too supported the changes under which children with mild or no symptoms can get their infections confirmed with a rapid test and stay at home, while children who are more at risk such as children with cancer, transplants, weak immune system, heart defects and babies under six months will continue to be referred to a PCR test by their doctor after consultation.