Rapid antigen Covid-19 tests have ‘crucial role’, European Commission says

EU leaders are split over whethe tests should be included on digital green certificate

“Rapid antigen tests play a crucial role to slow down the spread of Covid-19. Diagnostics are a central element for member states in their overall response to the pandemic,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

“Rapid antigen tests play a crucial role to slow down the spread of Covid-19. Diagnostics are a central element for member states in their overall response to the pandemic,” EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

 

Rapid antigen Covid-19 tests play a “crucial role” in containing the spread of the disease, the European Commission has said, as member states negotiate whether the faster but less accurate screening could be used to ease travel in the bloc.

EU leaders are split over whether rapid antigen tests should be included on the so-called digital green certificate, a system designed to demonstrate whether passengers have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19.

Home testing kits are not being considered, due to doubts about whether they would be administered reliably, which could worsen a high rate of false negatives compared to the slower but more rigorous polymerase chain reaction tests.

“Rapid antigen tests play a crucial role to slow down the spread of Covid-19. Diagnostics are a central element for member states in their overall response to the pandemic,” health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement.

But a list of 83 rapid antigen tests deemed acceptable for recognition across the bloc by advisory body the Health Security Committee that will only include tests administered by professionals and will exclude self-test kits.

“This includes only those rapid tests that are being carried out by a trained health professional or other trained operator and excludes rapid antigen self-tests,” a Commission statement said

The travel industry has pushed for member states to accept Covid-19 results from the cheaper and quicker rapid antigen tests, arguing that the lower price and quicker speed of the tests would make boarding flights and crossing borders easier.

But it is unclear whether the tests will be deemed suitable for inclusion on the EU’s green digital certificate system, which is undergoing its first technical trials this week to link up different member states as Mediterranean countries with large tourism industries increase pressure for it to be ready in time to facilitate summer travel.

“Having a wider list of recognised rapid antigen tests will also make it easier for citizens to benefit from Digital Green Certificates and to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU in the coming months,” commissioner Kyriakides said.

Vaccination campaigns have ramped up across the bloc, and official data collated by Our World in Data indicates the EU has now overtaken the United States and Britain in its daily rate of vaccinations administered per 100 people.

The Commission took fresh legal proceedings against vaccine producer AstraZeneca in Belgium this week in a bid to hold the company to a commitment of delivering 120 million doses by the end of June