The lowdown on COVID-19 self-testing kits in the Czech Republic

Several test kits have been approved for use by non-medical professionals; how much do they cost and what are they good for?

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 12.03.2021 14:39 (updated on 12.03.2021)

Anitgen testing has become compulsory at medium-sized and large firms, resulting public testing points becoming overburdened. But people who want to want to test themselves have another option. Self-test kits have been available from Czech pharmacies since February. They are already available Kaufland supermarkets, and Penny Market plans to launch sales March 15. Globus and Albert also plan to sell them but have not set a date.

These same self-test kits can also be used by companies for their mandatory testing, so stocks have run low from most vendors. More are expected to be available soon. Pharmacies warn people to expect delays when ordering online.

The tests on sale to the public have been granted an exemption by the Czech Health Ministry to allow non-medical staff to use them. The tests also have been certified for sale in the European Union. Buyers should look for the CE logo on the packaging.

Since these tests are done at home without the help of healthcare professionals, there is no way to use the results to get a certificate for official purposes such as travel. Still, there are many reasons that even unofficial results can be helpful.

Experts recommend not getting a vaccine shot if you already have coronavirus in your system, as the vaccine will not be effective in that case. A home test can help determine if you have been already exposed, so you can cancel the vaccination. The home test is also useful before going to meet relatives or other people at events like a wedding or funeral, so you can lower the risk of spreading the virus.

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Even if your job offers on-site testing, with a positive result from a home test you can avoid spreading the virus at work by calling in sick with your home result, and then not coming into contact with other staff. Anyone who suspects they have been exposed can use the test, and then determine their actions based on the result.

Home antigen tests can give results in a matter of minutes without having to seek assistance from healthcare professionals. PCR testing is more complicated, and it can take days to get results back from a lab.

Anitgen tests detect protein fragments specific to the coronavirus. A positive result is considered accurate when instructions are followed, but there's a chance of false negative results, according to the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic and other expert sources. That means it is possible to be infected with coronavirus but still get a negative result.

The tests only detect the virus when it is present in high levels, meaning when the person tested is already capable of spreading the virus. A newly infected person may test negative, as the viral load will be too low. Asymptomatic people may also have low viral loads, which antigen tests can miss.

"An individual with a negative antigen test is very likely to be non-infectious at the time of the test. But if they have a virus in them, their viral load will soon become infectious, which we will not know about from the negative antigen test," Pavel Dřevínek, a member of the laboratory group at the Czech Health Ministry, told news server Aktualne.cz.  

"For the antigen, we would only catch the beginning of the infection with really frequent repetitions of testing, but no one has yet determined exactly how often," Dřevínek added.

When using these home tests, it is important to follow the instructions carefully. Under ideal laboratory settings, many tests appear to be over 95 percent accurate, which drops significantly when they are used by untrained personnel, according to many medical experts. Exactly how accurate the tests are in home settings is hard to determine, as the results are not reported and verified.

Most tests use a nasal swab or saliva sample. There are placed in a collector, and colored lines appear on the collector within 15 to 20 minutes. The results must be checked within the indicated time frame or they are invalid. There is an exception that uses blood drops from the fingertip. There is also a Czech-made home PCR test, called Gargtest, but this requires sending the sample in for testing, so it does not offer immediate results.

We've rounded up some of the most commonly available tests. Note that prices can vary greatly from one retailer to another, so it's best to compare prices online when possible.

V-Chek

One of the easier to use tests, the V-Chek lollipop test doesn’t require a buffer solution or a nasal swab. The test tip, resembling a lollipop, is moistened with saliva for 90 seconds and then clicked into the test cassette, where the indicator lines will appear. Users shouldn’t eat or drink for two hours before using the test. Guangzhou Decheng Biotechnology of Guangzhou, China, claims the test is 95 percent accurate.

Price: 20 for CZK 3,800 at pharmacies, Penny Market will sell single tests at CZK 249 from mid-March.

Lepu

A nasal swab from the lower part of the nose is inserted into a test card and some drops of a buffer solution are added. The self-adhesive card is then folded and sealed. The colored indicator line or lines will appear as stripes across the card. Lepu Medical Technology of Beijing, China, claims the test is 95.06 accurate.

Price: 25 for CZK 3,500 at pharmacies.

Joysbio, Safecare, and Flowflex

These three tests from different manufacturers function almost identically. A nasal swab from the lower part of the nose is put in a liquid-filled tube and swirled around. Drops of the liquid from the tube are put in the well on the plastic tray, and results appear in a window. Joysbio Biotechnology of Tianjin, China, says the test is 98.98 percent accuracy. Safecare Biotech of Hangzhou, China, claims an accuracy 97.62 percent. Flowflex maker Acon Laboratories of San Diego, California, says the test is 99.3 percent accurate.

Price: Joysbio: 20 for CZK 3,000, one for CZK 299 at pharmacies; Safecare: 25 for CZK 3,490 at pharmacies; Flowflex: 25 for CZK 3,975 or CZK 199 each at pharmacies, available at Kaufland at CZK 150 each.

NewGene

Saliva is collected on a throat swab, which placed into a tube with a solution. Drops from the tube are put on a plastic test card, and results can be read read within 15 minutes. New Gene Bioengineering of Hangzhou, China, says the test is 95.8 percent accurate.

Price: 25 for CZK 3,490 and one for CZK 199 at pharmacies; Kaufland plans to sell it from mid-March, the price has not been announced.

Lomina

Unlike the other tests, this one relies on drops of blood extracted from a fingertip with a lancet and a dropper. Drops of blood are mixed with a solution in a plastic container. Two drops of the mixture are placed by a clean dropper on a testing strip, and results are read between three minutes and 10 minutes. Lomina AG of Appenzell, Switzerland, says the test is 97.3 percent accurate.

Price: 5 for CZK 1,250 at pharmacies.

Gargtest

This PCR test requires users to gargle some water and spit it into a plastic collector tube along with some stabilizing powder. The user registers the kit number online and then takes the tube to one two collection points in Prague or one in Olomouc, or to a physician. Results should be known in 24 hours. The test was developed by the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at Palacký University in Olomouc. While this test offers printed results they do not meet Health Ministry standards for a certificate of non-infection.

Price: 5 for CZK 1,400 at pharmacies.