Testing, testing, testing: SES Spar European Shopping Centers, Austria’s market-leading shopping center developer and operator, is backing the federal government’s appeal and has further expanded its free COVID-19 antigen rapid testing service for visitors and shopping center employees. Of the 17 SES shopping centers in Austria, 11 currently offer the free service. In cooperation with pharmacies and a local hospital, its highly professional partners, SES has quickly and smoothly provided its own testing lanes or containers at its centers in Vienna, Lower Austria, Styria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, and Tyrol in recent weeks. Most pharmacies that operate within SES centers also offer their own testing facilities. Appointments can be booked via the oesterreich-testet.at and apotheken.oesterreich-testet.at platforms.
Service orientation and regional partnerships are part of the SES philosophy. That fact is evidenced by the supraregional initiative to set up COVID-19 test stations for free antigen testing throughout Austria. Visitors have welcomed the offer and have seized upon the convenient opportunity to be tested for COVID-19 in a simple and uncomplicated manner during their shopping trips.
“This period of social distancing has actually brought us closer to our partners. We have reacted to the current situation in a swift and flexible manner. The shop mix at each of our centers usually includes a pharmacy, where people can be tested. We have set up additional test lanes, space permitting, at our centers in cooperation with our pharmacy partners or with local hospitals. The service is available to visitors as well as employees,” says Christoph Andexlinger, Chief Operations Officer of SES Spar European Shopping Centers, referring to the company’s strong partnerships and service orientation, adding: “If it were up to us, we would gladly further expand the range of testing opportunities. We are open to additional collaborations.”
SES Opposes General, Mandatory Entry Tests in the Retail Sector
While SES considers voluntary testing to be quite sensible, it is expressly opposed to mandatory testing in the brick-and-mortar retail and gastronomy segments, as it is not operationally feasible and visitors have consistently complied with the mask-wearing requirement and the distance regulation. In addition, compulsory testing would give international online retailers, in particular, another major advantage.
20-square-meter Rule Is Counterproductive
SES is also in favor of rescinding the square meter rule: “The 20-square-meter rule mathematically contradicts the 2-meter spacing rule and causes unnecessary queuing. As numerous studies have shown, no cluster formations have been found to have originated from the retail sector,” says SES Managing Director Andexlinger.
Testing Availability at SES Centers across Austria
All pharmacies operating within SES centers offer free antigen rapid tests. Appointments for all tests can be made in advance via oesterreich-testet.at and apotheken.oesterreich-testet.at; tests can also be administered spontaneously, without an appointment.
Vienna: HUMA ELEVEN shopping center in Vienna Simmering has been offering free rapid tests for visitors and center employees since 12 April. The newly opened test center is staffed by medically trained personnel from the local pharmacy, who carry out swab testing in compliance with strict hygiene measures. Such testing can be done with or without an appointment, and test results are sent via text message within a matter of minutes. Commercial premises are being utilized to house the test center. There is also an incentive for members of the general public to participate in the testing effort: Those who are tested on a regular basis receive a gift. The test center is, therefore, making an important contribution to containing the coronavirus pandemic. Gerngross on Mariahilfer Strasse, which is also managed by SES, is currently manning a test tent at its entrance in cooperation with Essenz, a pharmacy located across the street.
Lower Austria: Since 10 March, an indoor COVID-19 test lane has been in operation at SES shopping center FISCHAPARK for both visitors and employees of the center, and a drive-in test lane has been available on parking level 3 since 14 March. Rapid antigen tests are being carried out by medically trained staff, in compliance with hygiene guidelines, from Monday to Saturday during the shopping center’s regular opening hours. The COVID-19 testing facilities at the FISCHAPARK pharmacy, which have been in place since the beginning of February, can still be taken advantage of free of charge.
Styria: Visitors can also register for a free rapid test at the Liebenau pharmacy at MURPARK in Graz. At CITYPARK Graz, which is managed by SES, rapid antigen testing is conducted on the panorama floor by staff members who work at the pharmacy located inside the center.
Upper Austria: Since 8 April, WEBERZEILE shopping center in Ried, together with the Barmherzige Schwestern Ried hospital, has offered a weather-independent COVID-19 indoor test lane at the shopping center, in an area on the top floor, from Monday to Sunday. The pharmacies located inside VARENA Vöcklabruck shopping center and MAX.CENTER Wels offer rapid testing services directly on their premises.
Salzburg: SES shopping center FORUM 1 has also offered free rapid antigen tests at its newly created testing station since Friday, 19 February. The service is the result of a collaboration with the pharmacy based at the train station. Rapid antigen testing has also been available at Theresien Pharmacy, which is housed inside EUROPARK Salzburg, since 8 March. Swab tests are carried out in a special test container located in the square in front of the center.
Tyrol: Since 5 March, SILLPARK Innsbruck shopping center has offered COVID-19 rapid antigen and PCR tests free of charge in a test container directly in the center forecourt, in cooperation with Telfs Medical Center and the Province of Tyrol. Test results are transmitted within approximately 10 minutes by means of a paper-based certificate and are valid both for trips to the hairdresser or for appointments with a masseur.