Status: 01/25/2022 03:27 am

While PCR tests are rationed everywhere else, Vienna wants to continue to offer enough. The Austrians are well ahead of countries like Germany when it comes to the test rate. Why is that?

By Wolfgang Vichtl, ARD Studio Vienna

About half a million can be tested in Vienna every day – of course, PCR tests. In the near future, 800,000 tests per day will be managed, Vienna’s City Councilor for Health Peter Hacker says. Omikron has caused demand to skyrocket. While everywhere else, including Austria, PCR tests are rationed, Vienna wants to continue to offer enough.

Wolfgang Vichtl
ARD Studio Vienna

How does Vienna manage that? Through targeted spitting, simple, unbureaucratic. With a lot of preparation – Vienna has been a test pioneer since the beginning of the pandemic. Through routine – the laboratories have also grown with the tasks. In Vienna, around 1,000 employees at the Lifebrain laboratories ensure that everything goes as quickly as possible from test delivery to the result – because PCR tests have a short expiry date.

“Everything is processed”

Alireza Karimi, technical manager in the laboratory, explains how PCR testing works on the assembly line. If you drop off your test at the nearest supermarket by 9 a.m., your saliva sample will be in the laboratory by noon at the latest, by 2.30 p.m. the analysis can begin, and the result will be available by 5 p.m. Work is done around the clock. Every night: “Everything is processed”.

The test result comes by email, often after 10 hours, with a very official PDF document attached. Vienna is far ahead in this respect. PCR testing here is easy, even fun, free, and can be done at home whenever convenient.

You have to log in via smartphone, then gargle a saline solution for a minute while a selfie video plays (takes some getting used to, but fun), spit into a test tube, scan code, scan ID, tube into bag, seal and into the box , in drugstores and in many supermarkets, often on Sundays too.

Foresight pays off

Success also includes the fact that Vienna decided early on to lure as many people as possible to test, free of charge, with the slogan “Everything gurgle”. The federal treasury reimburses the costs, and it is now six euros per PCR test. The rest is logistics: shuttle buses that pick up the samples and bring them to the laboratory – where the fully digitized PCR assembly line runs.

You are still a bit away from the capacity limit, says Michael Havel, Managing Director of the Lifebrain Group, the leading laboratory in Vienna, in the ORF business magazine “Saldo”. The Ö1 colleagues looked at the two largest PCR laboratories in Austria, “Lifebrain” in Vienna and “Novogenia” in Eugendorf. Two who, as Havel put it, are not part of the “fortune hunters” industry, who sense good business and promise a lot.

Location advantage Vienna

Austria also has disappointed public clients, a few scandals. Havel put it in Viennese, he doesn’t want to “say anything bad about the competition” – but you have to be honest: “We are simply the only ones in Austria who can process such quantities.”

Competitors admit that, including Novogenia boss Daniel Wallersdorfer. However, he points to the advantage of Vienna as a location: the big city, many people, short distances, dense test network. It’s harder for him: “We’re doing Lower and Upper Austria, very large federal states. We have to collect the samples in the last corner and deliver the result within 24 hours.”

Significantly higher test rate than in Germany

These are challenges that are also reflected in the figures. What works in Vienna is just starting to work in the federal states. While the average Viennese has been PCR tested about 17 times (17.04), in the rest of Austria there have been just under six tests (5.9) per capita since the beginning of the pandemic. However, that is still five times more than in Germany: 1.17 PCR tests per capita.

The success? Doubters in Germany critically refer to the extremely high seven-day incidence in Austria. There were more than 2,500 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in Vienna, 1,970 in Austria. But that also has something to do with mathematics: those who test more discover more infected people. But the untestable “unreported number” should be significantly smaller.

PCR testing in Austria: What works better in Vienna than in Germany?

Wolfgang Vichtl, ARD Wien, 24.1.2022 · 19:32

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