To know the scale of the pandemic, “we must test”. How does Poland do it, and how does Europe?

We will not be able to capture the true number of new infections in Poland if no more tests are performed, experts warn of the upcoming fifth wave of the pandemic. The health ministry promises that the number of tests will increase if necessary. Data for Europe show that Poland is still at the bottom end in this respect.

The announcement of the minister of health about the upcoming fifth wave of infections, which may bring up to 200,000. infections a day, recalled on January 12, the moderator of the “Morning conversation” at RMF FM Robert Mazurek. His guest was the prime minister’s chief advisor on COVID-19 and the chairman of the Medical Council, prof. Andrzej Horban. When asked how we should check if there will be 200,000. new cases, since we only do 80,000 a day. of tests, he said, “You can do, but half a million can’t be done.”

“Does that mean we’ll have more sick than we can show?” the journalist asked. Professor Horban confirmed: “Yes, we have it all the time.”

The reason: the average of daily tests performed in Poland is much less than in other European countries.

Szułdrzyński: We are able to catch up to 100,000 infections.  The rest will be above the speedometer

Szułdrzyński: We are able to catch up to 100,000 infections. The rest will be above the speedometer Video: tvn24

“To have scale, we have to test”

Commenting on the state of the pandemic in Europe and Poland on January 10, prof. Maciej Banach from the Medical University of Lodz emphasized the importance of the appropriate scale of testing for COVID-19. He cited the example of Italy: “Yesterday’s data show that there are currently two million infected people there, which is the largest number of people infected since the beginning of the pandemic in Italy. For this reason, among others, they also test very hard, which I urge very strongly in Poland.” Then he added: “Two days ago, it was tested [we Włoszech] half a million people a day – that is, this is a result that we have never had in Poland. But to have a scale [pandemii], we have to test “- he said.

But there is a problem with that. On January 10th, Dr. Konstanty Szułdrzyński, head of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy at the Ministry of Interior and Administration in Warsaw, spoke about it. During the interview on TVN24, he admitted that we will not know the real scale of new infections in Poland, because “our testing capability ends at around 150,000-160,000 a day”. “We will be able to catch up to a hundred thousand cases. The rest will be above the speedometer,” he said. As he further explained, “we will just see an increasing burden on GPs and hospitals. This will indirectly tell us about the number of new cases, because we will not be able to catch the real one.”

When at the end of September – that is, in the first month of the fourth wave – we were checking the data on the level of testing in Poland and Europe, we were at the bottom when it comes to the number of tests performed. This meant that we did not know the real scale of infections in the country. As the latest data shows, nothing has changed – Poland is still one of the European countries where the least testing is done.

Infections per million inhabitants in the EU: Poland fares well, but …

The chart below presents data on the average weekly number of infections per million inhabitants in EU countries from December 1, 2021 to January 12, 2022. This indicator allows you to compare the situation in countries with different populations.

As can be seen, in the analyzed period in Poland, the average weekly number of infections per million inhabitants has decreased: since December 12 it has been less than 600 (592.74). During the holiday season, it fell below 400, and on January 12 it amounted to 324.45 – the lowest among the EU countries.

Average weekly number of COVID-19 infections per million inhabitants in European Union countries (from December 1, 2021 to January 12, 2022)
Average weekly number of COVID-19 infections per million inhabitants in European Union countries (from December 1, 2021 to January 12, 2022) Photo: Our World in Data / ourworldindata.org

See the interactive version of the chart for details.

So if you only look at these data, it could be concluded that the epidemic situation in Poland is much better than in other EU countries – in many countries the average of infections is growing. But first of all, the second half of December and the beginning of January are the holiday season, then in Poland fewer tests were performed than usual – so fewer infections were detected. Secondly, we test only people with symptoms and (from mid-December) people in the house who are infected. In other countries, testing is more extensive. As a result, we simply do not have a complete picture of the state of the pandemic – which is what doctors are paying attention to.

“We are able to perform the tests up to two hundred thousand”

The spokesman of the Ministry of Health, Wojciech Andrusiewicz, was asked about the possibility of testing in Poland at a conference on January 10. “We are able to perform tests up to two hundred thousand. If necessary, we will conduct more” – he assured. When asked about the maximum number of tests that could be performed in Poland, he replied: “Depending on how many more companies want to test. The database of laboratories is still available.” He added that the ministry introduced a change that would allow “any laboratory connected to the record-keeping system to be able to perform tests”.

And how many tests are we doing now in Poland? The data of the Ministry of Health for the period October 1, 2021 – January 13, 2022 show that we achieve half of the maximum possibilities given by the spokesman.

Andrusiewicz: We can perform 200,000 tests a day.  There will be more if needed

Andrusiewicz: We can perform 200,000 tests a day. There will be more if needed Video: tvn24

Maximum 115 thousand

In October, we performed daily from 21.6 thousand. (October 4) to almost 60,000 tests (October 30). From November 27, the daily number of tests performed began to exceed 100,000. The numbers reported on weekends are lower than on the other days of the week.

Daily number of COVID-19 tests performed in Poland (October 1, 2021 - January 13, 2022)
Daily number of COVID-19 tests performed in Poland (October 1, 2021 – January 13, 2022) Photo: Konkret24 / Ministry of Health

See the interactive version of the chart for details.

In the analyzed period, most tests were performed on December 8 – 115.1 thousand. However, on January 13 it was 96.8 thousand. tests.

Number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants: Poland in the tail of the EU

And how does Poland fare against the background of EU countries in terms of testing for COVID-19? The latest data from Our World in Data show that on January 11, the average weekly number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants in Poland was 2.12. It was lower only in Germany – 1.61, but this is the state on January 2. As the data for Germany are for the holiday season for now, they may be lower than usual.

The seven-day average number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants in the European Union countries, as of January 12, 2022
The seven-day average number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants in the European Union countries, as of January 12, 2022 Photo: Our World in Data / ourworldindata.org

See the interactive version of the chart for details.

In six countries (Cyprus, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Portugal, France) the average weekly number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants exceeded 20. In Italy, referred to by prof. Banach was also high: 16.04. Poland is at the bottom end.

Data from a longer period – December 1, 2021 to January 11, 2022 – show that this is a constant trend. At that time, Poland was one of the five EU countries with the lowest number of tests per 1,000 inhabitants. In terms of testing, the best countries were: Cyprus (January 9 – 147), Austria (December 28 – 7037), Greece (January 1 – 38.18) and Portugal (January 4 – 24.66).

Author: Gabriela Sieczkowska

Source: Concrete24; photo: Jakub Kaczmarczyk / PAP


About Banner Leon

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