No-referral COVID testing might be extended in Latvia

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Until the end of this week, a state-paid COVID-19 test can be done without a referral. Health Ministry is now considering extension of this period, Latvian Television reported December 28.

The possibility of free access to COVID-19 tests has been provided during the two final weeks of December, taking into account the fact that receiving a referral from a family doctor or an emergency doctor during the holidays could be difficult. The only rule is that there should be symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever, sore throat or loss of smell and taste.

The Bior laboratory provided additional testing opportunities in Rīga and Latgale during the holiday. And people's interest was really great.

This is reflected in the new testing records achieved over the past week. In the working days, more than 10, even 12 thousand people were tested, less – at Christmas, when some of the testing stations were closed. There have also been a large number of newly identified cases, for example, 1270 people were tested positive on 24 December, and the prevalence is still rapid and uncontrolled.

Photo: LTV

Health Minister Ilze Vinkele said that she was considering the possibility of continued extended free testing even after the end of this week. "One of the indicators is the responsiveness of people in working days. “If capacity is allowed and we will see it useful, then it is possible to extend the approach that people with symptoms can apply for the Covid-19 test without referral,” the minister said.

“Obviously the curious phase has passed (..), people are educated too. They wait at least three to five days since contact, and then if they don't have symptoms, they want to know if they don't have an asymptomatic virus. People don't run tests anymore because their friend told them so,” said Olga Valciņa, deputy director of Bior in laboratory matters.

The processing and verification of referrals has also taken time for general practitioners, which can now be devoted to direct work obligations.

The National Health Service, which currently coordinates records of COVID-19 studies across the country, has similar observations.

“At present, the maximum waiting time for tests is two days, but mostly, test can be done on the same day or the next day. In terms of capacity, the service is available, the capacity is sufficient,” said Sintija Gulbe, spokeswoman for the National Health Service.

Whether the testing without referral will continue next week will be decided soon by the government.

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