The Need for Large Scale Mass Testing

The Need for Large Scale Mass Testing

Slowing and containing the spread of COVID-19 is the most important aspect of fighting the virus at the moment. Although models are suggesting that Social distancing is working, we can not stress enough the need mass testing to remove asymptomatic spreaders from our communities.

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended large scale testing in every country. The rationale for large scale testing is outlined below:

  • Make the Invisible Enemy Visible
  • Without large scale testing (testing the entire population) we are unable to identify who has COVID-19. Testing allows for positive cases to be identified, contacts to be traced, and quarantine to be implemented.

  • It Alleviates Anxiety
  • Many people are very anxious about the possibility of having COVID-19. Receiving a diagnosis can help people cope with this stress. A positive test can allow people to take the necessary precautions and a negative test can help them experience some relief.

  • We Need to Move Towards Ending the Wide Scale Lockdown
  • Without the ability to test everyone we cannot end the current wide scale lockdowns that are taking place worldwide. Testing the entire population allows us to identify positive cases, quarantine those individuals and trace their contacts so that they can be tested. Without the ability to do this we have to assume that anyone and everyone has the virus which means continuing the widespread lockdowns.

  • Early Testing Allows for Early Medical Attention
  • By testing people who have mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic, we can help healthcare professionals monitor their clinical status and provide early healthcare interventions. Testing is essential for healthcare providers as it allows them to better triage patients.

  • Restarting the Economy
  • Large scale testing allows us to reopen businesses and other establishments which are vital to the economy. We need the ability to test in order to do this. Those who test negative can safely be allowed to work and re-enter normal society.

  • Accurate Data Acquisition
  • Most experts agree that current reported cases are nowhere near the true case numbers. This is because we have not tested enough people. Further, delays in getting test results put us 1-2 weeks behind the true case rate. By obtaining more accurate data on prevalence in the community we can better understand the virus and how it spreads.

  • Identification of those with Immunity
  • The use of antibody testing can allow us to identify people who had the virus and have recovered. This is useful as it allows us to designate them as immune. Further, there are treatment modalities such as passive antibody therapy which may prove vital in stopping COVID-19.

  • Rapid Testing will be Needed Ongoingly
  • Even if we contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we need a means to be able to rapidly test and screen people. This would prevent new waves or clusters of infection once containment is achieved. In order for people to be able to safely travel to other regions of the world we need to be able to confirm that they do not have COVID-19.