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The Impact of Mass Antigen Testing for COVID-19 on the Prevalence of the Disease


  • Kahanec, Martin
  • Lafférs, Lukáš
  • Schmidpeter, Bernhard


More than a year since the first outbreak in China in December 2019, most countries are still struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass antigen testing has been proposed as an instrument to mitigate the spread of the disease and allow the economy to re-open. We investigate the potential benefits of mass antigen testing for the mitigation of the pandemic, using data from a uniquely designed testing that took place in Slovakia in autumn 2020. As the first country in the world, Slovakia implemented and repeated mass rapid antigen testing. After the first round of nation-wide testing, only districts above an ex-ante unknown prevalence threshold were re-tested. Comparing districts in the neighborhood above and below the threshold using a quasi-experimental design, we find that repeated mass antigen testing reduces infections by about 25-30% and results in a decrease in R0 of 0.3 two weeks after the testing. These effects peaked about 15 days after the second round of testing and gradually dissipated afterward. These results suggest that mass testing could be an effective tool in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but for lasting effects it would need to be conducted regularly in relatively short intervals.

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  • Kahanec, Martin & Lafférs, Lukáš & Schmidpeter, Bernhard, 2021. "The Impact of Mass Antigen Testing for COVID-19 on the Prevalence of the Disease," GLO Discussion Paper Series 775, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:775

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    1. Brodeur, Abel & Clark, Andrew E. & Fleche, Sarah & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2021. "COVID-19, lockdowns and well-being: Evidence from Google Trends," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    2. Abel Brodeur & David Gray & Anik Islam & Suraiya Bhuiyan, 2021. "A literature review of the economics of COVID‐19," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 1007-1044, September.
    3. Arenas-Arroyo, Esther & Fernandez-Kranz, Daniel & Nollenberger, Natalia, 2021. "Intimate partner violence under forced cohabitation and economic stress: Evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    4. Chernozhukov, Victor & Kasahara, Hiroyuki & Schrimpf, Paul, 2021. "Causal impact of masks, policies, behavior on early covid-19 pandemic in the U.S," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 220(1), pages 23-62.
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    Cited by:

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    2. David Turner & Balázs Égert & Yvan Guillemette & Jarmila Botev, 2021. "The tortoise and the hare: The race between vaccine rollout and new COVID variants," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1672, OECD Publishing.
    3. Anna Godøy & Maja Weemes Grøtting & Rannveig Kaldager Hart, 2022. "Reopening schools in a context of low COVID-19 contagion: consequences for teachers, students and their parents," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 35(3), pages 935-961, July.
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    More about this item


    COVID-19; COVID-19 policies; Causal impact; Antigen testing; Mass test- ing; Non-pharmaceutical interventions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D04 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Policy: Formulation; Implementation; Evaluation
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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