Comparing COVID-19 testing and positivity rates in Europe (August 17)

Date of article: 17 August 2020

'Persons tested' vs 'Samples tested'

When comparing testing activity, it is important to realize that some countries are reporting on the amount of 'persons tested' and some countries are reporting on 'samples tested' (or simply 'labtests done'). As an indication, in countries reporting both numbers, the amount of 'samples tested'/'labtests done' is calculated by multiplying the amount of tested people by somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6.

This means that the countries reporting on 'persons tested' likely tested ~1.5 times more samples than persons. Please keep this in mind when reading the following map and charts.

Current COVID-19 testing activity in Europe

The following chart shows the current COVID-19 testing activity relative to population size in Europe. Testing activity is calculated using the daily average of tests performed, over the most recent period of 7 days for which test data has been released by national authorities. Antibody tests have been excluded in this comparison. The exact calculated values are given in the following bar chart.

Worth noting in the above chart:

  • For the first time in many months, Luxembourg is no longer by far performing most tests. Because Luxembourg does not report on 'samples tested' it's still quite possible that Luxembourg tested more samples than Iceland, but so Iceland and Luxembourg are more or less tied for the title of country currently doing most COVID-19 tests per capita.
  • In general countries have increased their testing activity, with Turkey being one of the European countries with the biggest increase in testing activity.
  • At the bottom of the chart, we find the same four countries as 10 days ago: Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Hungary. For Ukraine, it's not surprising as they have been among the European countries doing fewest COVID-19 tests since April. However, Slovenia used to do a decent amount of tests back in April (e.g. more tests per capita than Switzerland, Finland, Turkey and UK), but contrary to all other countries of Europe their testing activity has decreased since.

Current positivity rates in Europe

When a country publishes data on confirmed cases and testing activity, we can also calculate the positivity for that country. The 'current positivity rate' is the ratio of confirmed cases (last 7 days) to the number of performed PCR-tests (last 7 days). The following map shows the current positivity rate for countries in Europe.

Note in the above map, for some countries data on 'persons tested' is used. The countries are: Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Serbia. The exact positivity rates as calculated are given in the following bar chart.

Worth noting in the above chart:

  • Armenia remains the European country with the highest positivity rate. As can be seen on our country page for Armenia, the downward trend is coming to a halt as the positivity rate has remained close to 14% last week.
  • The worst possible place to be in the above charts is when a country is doing few tests (relative to population) and at the same time is having a high positivity rate. Among European countries Ukraine is currently the country in this worst-case situation
  • The countries reporting the lowest positivity rate are once again countries from Northern Europe: Latvia, Iceland and Finland all have a 7 day average positivity rate below 0.3%.
  • Looking to changes in the positivity rate, countries with the biggest changes upwards are: Slovenia (+1.5%) and The Netherlands (+1.4%), but also Austria (+1.1%), Switzerland (+0.8%) and Greece (+1.1%) are indicating accelerated growth of the coronavirus
  • Countries with significant declines in the positivity rate last week are: Bulgaria (-1.2%) and Estonia (-0.8%).

Additional sources used

Although most European countries report every day on testing activity, some countries only report once a week on testing activity. At this moment in time, Newsnodes only gathers testing data by countries who report on COVID-19 testing every day, so to create the above map additional I gathered additional data. Because the day that weekly testing data is released can be different for each country, some data might be a few days up to 1 week old.

Below are some examples for traceability purposes of the above data.

Source: Ministerio de Sanidad, Consumo y Bienestar Social

Source: Point épidémiologique, Santé Publique France

Source: COVID-19 Situationsberichte, RKI

article by Newsnodes



Date Country page
3 May,23:26 Hungary
25 Apr,21:35 Moldova
24 Apr,14:07 Iran
6 Apr,00:20 Spain
1 Apr,23:43 Portugal
31 Mar,08:36 Paraguay
30 Mar,11:57 Belgium
27 Mar,10:50 Paraguay
26 Mar,10:10 Paraguay
26 Mar,10:09 India


Date Country page
18 May,18:03 Finland
9 May,22:18 Sri Lanka
8 May,00:28 United States
7 May,22:43 Brazil
7 May,22:00 Ethiopia
7 May,21:59 Moldova
7 May,21:58 Turkey
7 May,21:56 Algeria
7 May,21:54 South Africa
7 May,19:55 France

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