Why Testing COVID-19 – Science versus Policies?

One of the most important things that help to understand and stop spread of COVID-19 is testing. Science explains why testing is important, what it involves and scientific needs for data-sets. So how many tests countries are doing based on available data from official sources are among important issues. Testing allows infected people to know if they are infected and needs care. This can, also, help take measures to reduce probability of infecting others. On region-wide scale testing allows to understand the spread of the disease, to take evidence-based measures to slow down the spread and eventually to control the pandemic. Because of several reasons, the capacity for COVID-19 testing is still very limited worldwide, so we still do not have detailed understanding of the spread. With testing someone ‘COVID-19 infected’ may produce false-negative results and may require more than one test (https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing). While science is the bases and reference to make sound policies and decisions there are several practical and technical constraints what regards when, where and how to scale-up an effective, prompt and affordable infra-structure for nation-wide testing capacity (https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-widespread-coronavirus-testing-isnt-coming-anytime-soon). The US for example, reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 21st. Eight weeks later, there still aren’t enough tests for the virus available for everyone who needs them and this is also the case in many other countries around the world. “It is a failing,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as “The system is not really geared to what we need right now.” People who are sick or have been in contact with sick people are struggling to be tested and labs to get the supplies needed (https://www.theverge.com/2020/3/17/21184015/coronavirus-testing-pcr-diagnostic-point-of-care-cdc-techonology). But some African, Asian, European, and South American countries are responding quite differently. Below is a sampling of the ways different countries have been working to protect citizens from the Covid-19 virus (https://www.google.se/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/science-and-health/2020/3/22/21189889/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-response-south-korea-phillipines-italy-nicaragua-senegal-hong-kong). South Korea has the world’s most comprehensive protective measures with the most novel, too “Public Phone Booths”. A hospital in Seoul has installed them to offer easy, quick testing to people worried about having the disease. The way it works is spectacular: One person at a time can enter one side of the glass-walled booth and grab a handset connected to a hospital worker standing on the other side of the glass. After a consultation, the staff member can stick their arms into rubber gloves embedded into the booth to swab the patient quickly, collecting a sample before the booth is quickly disinfected. The hospital says the seven-minute exam allows it to test almost 10 times as many samples as it could without the special booths. Similar techniques are used in hot radioactive labs to protect laboratory-staff against radiation. However, Taiwan has very high ranking of protection measures against COV-19 though close to China, has intensive traffic and relatively higher population than other counties with very high infection and death rates. There are other examples of countries struggling with many complications such as inadequate testing, lack of staff and lack of protective equipment for medical staff, e.g. the Philippines. The country’s main island of Luzon is under lockdown with half the country’s population of 107 million live on Luzon including 12 million in Manila. The Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers Inc. has begun to warn of potential gaps in the food supply chain. Some says if you can’t get tested? Maybe you’re in the wrong country (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/world/europe/coronavirus-testing-world-countries-cities-states.html). It is not about science, very early, scientists around the world were waiting at their computers in early January when China released the coronavirus genetic code, the blueprint for creating tests and vaccines. Within days, labs from Hong Kong to Berlin had designed tests and shared their research with others. However, decisions and blunders made months ago have caused testing disparities worldwide. The science, it turns out, was the easy part.

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