The project, which started in Lower Austria on April 6th, aims to get a better idea of the role played by smaller children attending kindergarten in spreading the virus.
On the first day of the project, there was one positive result out of the 179 children who were tested.
ORF reports that normally the kindergartens would have 418 students, but most of these are now at home due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Five state kindergartens in Wolkersdorf (Mistelbach district), Thaya (Waidhofen an der Thaya district), Neumarkt an der Ybbs (Melk district), Neunkirchen and Weigelsdorf (Baden district) were tested as part of the scheme.
The scheme will continue for eight weeks, after which it will be assessed, with the possibility of extending it throughout the state and later the rest of the country.
Indeed, if the scheme is seen to be working, it may be extended before the eight-week period is up.
“If the ‘lollipop tests’ are well received, we will push ahead with the rollout of the test procedure for kindergartens throughout Lower Austria even before the end of the pilot period,” announced health representative Ulrike Königsberger-Ludwig.
Children will be tested twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Who wants a lollipop?
Given the difficulty in testing children, the tests are carried out using the so-called ‘lollipop tests’.
The tests are said to be similar to using a toothbrush, broadcaster ORF reports.
They are moved back and forward in the mouth like a toothbrush before being removed.
Results are available within 15 minutes.
Savvy children may realise that despite the name, the tests look more like toothbrushes than lollipops – and will be disappointed to find out that no lollipops are involved at all.
The two regional councillors responsible, Christiane Teschl-Hofmeister (ÖVP) and Königsberger-Ludwig (SPÖ), said the method was used as it was particularly child friendly.
“With the tests, it is possible to identify sources of infection as quickly as possible and thus to protect the teachers as well as the kindergarten children and their families from illness as well as possible,” said the two councillors, who added they wanted to make kindergartens in Austria “as safe as possible”.