As the number of new coronavirus cases increase each day, the demand for COVID-19 tests has also risen significantly in recent days. Many argue that the testing capacity has reached its upper limit, and the National Center for Public Health also reported that they cannot perform more than 10-12,000 tests daily. However, Cecília Müller, Chief Medical Officer, claims that they can still expand the daily capacity and everyone who requests a test will be tested.
Whereas not too long ago, the ambulance service was getting a few hundred requests for COVID-19 tests per day, it has been getting over 5,000 daily requests over the past few weeks. Thus, Hungary’s National Ambulance Service (OMSZ) has said it will deploy an additional 200 COVID-19 testing units over the coming days.
In order to meet the increased demand for tests on time, OMSZ, with the help of the Interior Ministry, will deploy 200 extra mobile testing units across the country, with the help of senior medical students.
However, in recent days, although they are constantly further strengthening their capacities and striving to reach all symptomatic patients within 48 hours, many news outlets have reported that ambulances were unable to take samples on more than 8,000 occasions on Monday and another 4-5,000 on Wednesday.
Népszava has learned from its sources that it is not uncommon for those waiting for the test to wait four to five days after they requested one. One of the ambulance sample collectors told the leftist paper that human resources are only enough for up to 5-6,000 tests a day.
According to experts, the consequences of reaching the upper limit of testing can be serious. Forecasting the epidemic is currently one of the most difficult issues, as the number of tests has not kept pace with the increased number of cases in recent weeks. Thus, the data reported on a daily basis cannot provide adequate guidance on what the real trend of the epidemic is and will be. The main problem is that if the number of cases actually increases, then the upper limit of testing will also determine how much of all existing infections we will be able to detect.
The maximum number of samples that can be taken has long been an issue. Although Cecília Müller, the Chief Medical Officer, has always told journalists that there is enough capacity and if necessary, they can also expand it, the National Center for Public Health (NNK) reported for the data request of napi.hu, that they can perform a maximum of 10-12,000 PCR tests per day in Hungary in accredited laboratories.
However, Müller again denied at the daily briefing of the operative board that the the daily testing capacity cannot be further expanded. For example, on Tuesday, the laboratory of the National Blood Supply Service was also involved in the examinations. “There’s no capacity limit. Whoever needs testing, we’re testing them,” Müller said. She added that in the last 24 hours, 15,596 PCR tests were performed by the authorities in Hungary. There is no upper limit to the laboratory capacity of PCR tests, she said in response to press reports.
The government has long defended itself by following the recommendations of the World Health Organization in everything, including testing, but this is contradicted by the fact that according to the WHO, testing can be considered sufficient if the proportion of positive tests does not exceed 5%. In Hungary, this indicator has not fallen below the WHO-recommended five percent since the beginning of September. Moreover, it has been above 10-12% for some time, exceeding the upper limit of the correct testing rate set by the WHO, and recently even reaching 15%.
featured photo: Tibor Rosta/MTI