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EU moves to bloc-wide recognition of antigen tests

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EU envoys on Thursday struck preliminary agreement on having antigen tests for COVID-19 carried out in any member country recognised by all 27 countries in the bloc, diplomats told AFP.

The move, to be followed with a written procedure and discussed at an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday, aims to make COVID-19 testing more widespread and faster.

Unlike PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests that involve getting a swab from the nasal cavity behind the nose that is analysed in a lab, antigen testing can be done from saliva with a result given on the spot within 30 minutes.

That makes it easier and faster to test large numbers of people, though antigen tests are less reliable in detecting COVID-19 in people who are not showing symptoms.

The European Commission says it could use antigen tests in specific situations to rapidly detect outbreaks or monitor “high-risk” individuals such as frontline workers in the health sector.

Large-scale antigen tests could also be used to screen travellers coming back from countries outside the European Union.

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