The European Commission on Wednesday adopted a recommendation on the use of rapid antigen tests for the diagnosis of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in efforts to ensure a common approach and more efficient testing strategies across the EU.
“To increase EU coordination on testing methods, we are today providing guidance to Member States on the use of rapid antigen test to better manage Covid-19 outbreaks,” Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food safety, said.
The recommendation provides guidance to Member States on the use of rapid antigen tests to detect the coronavirus in specific settings, on how to select them and who should perform them. It also calls for validation and mutual recognition of tests and their results.
“Member States are strongly encouraged to mutually recognise the test results for rapid antigen tests meeting the criteria in the recommendation carried out by authorised operating testing facilities in any EU Member States,” the Commission said.
The Commission’s recommendation builds on the guidance developed with member states input and expert advice from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Essential for cross border travel
According to the Commission, mutual recognition of test results is of utmost importance in order to facilitate cross border movement, cross border contact tracing and treatment.
As highlighted by the Commission, the compliance with the recommendation may then contribute to the free movement of people and the smooth functioning of the internal market in times of limited testing capacities.
It is noted that the tourism and aviation sectors consider pre-flight rapid antigen tests a game changer that will reignite air travel and address the issue of varying and confusing quarantine measures taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Increasing Covid-19 testing capacity of member states
The Commission also announced that it was stepping up its support to increase the testing capacity of member states.
“Being efficient on testing also requires having the necessary resources… Support and solidarity is key to overcome this pandemic,” Kyriakides said.
To further enhance testing capacities in the EU, the Commission is funding 35.5 million euros to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support training of staff and enable Red Cross Mobile Testing Teams to have access to the necessary equipment, lab items and reagents to take samples and perform tests, and support national authorities in their work.
The collaboration with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is open to the EU Member States and the UK, through the national Red Cross Society. Seven Member states have already decided to participate: Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
The Commission’s announcements come ahead of the European Leaders’ virtual meeting on November 19 on the EU response to the Covid-19 pandemic.