Until now kindergarten aged children have been exempt from many measures to contain the coronavirus, but there are fears in Austria that as schools and kindergartens reopen, the more contagious British variant of the virus could spread widely among young people and children.
This could lead to another surge in cases and undo progress with vaccination campaigns.
Austria’s Burgenland province has already ordered 35,000 lollipop tests, following the success of a pilot project, a spokesperson for the regional government told AFP.
Children in Burgenland will be given three free tests per week.
The test involves sucking the test “lollipop” for 90 seconds, dipping the test in a container, with results available after 15 minutes.
Father and graphic designer Dominik Krotschek told AFP his three-year-old had taken well to the tests after initial disappointment that the tests lacked the bright colours and the sweet taste of a real lollipop, but rather resembled “an oversized cotton swab”.
“It’s unproblematic — we just did it again today and it worked well,” he told AFP. “I think it makes sense to have stricter controls in the educational sector.”
The tests were invented by Manuela Foedinger, who leads the laboratory at Vienna’s Kaiser-Franz-Joseph hospital and is credited with pioneering a similarly simple-to-use gargle test that is now widely used across the nation of 8.9 million.
When her invention was recognised by the city of Vienna last year, the mayor of Vienna asked what could be done to test toddlers and Foedinger replied: “I have an idea for that, too.”
In Vienna, Foedinger is now conducting a study with children between the ages of one and six across five kindergartens to show just how accurate the test results are to help decide whether lollipop tests can be deployed more broadly, a spokesperson said.