Test, Test, Test – Better late than never

On Monday 16th March , The World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said he had a simple message to countries on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak sweeping the globe: ‘Test, test, test.’ Speaking during a news conference , he urged countries to test more suspected cases, warning that they ‘cannot fight a fire blindfolded’.

Nearly five weeks later, the Health secretary announced a new contact tracing Programme to test, track and trace  all new coronavirus cases in the country, as part of measures to try to keep transmission of the virus low.  

Done effectively, this can help to suppress the transmission in a way that allows you then to have lesser social distancing rules,” Hancock told a news conference. It works more effectively when the rate of new cases is lower, so the more effectively you can keep it down using test, track and trace rather than having to use heavier social distancing measures.” 18,000 people are being recruited and trained for contact tracing duties .

He also announced opening up testing to all essential workers in a desperate meet his 100,000 tests target by the end of April. The health secretary had promised that from 6am on Friday morning up to 10 million essential workers and their families would be able to apply for a drive-in test or home-testing kit.

But within three hours of the site launching, anyone accessing the self-referral test site was told that applications had closed. A message said: “You can’t currently register for a Covid-19 test. Please check back here later.” The Department for Health and Social Care blamed the problems on “significant demand”. In a tweet it apologised for the inconvenience and promised more tests would be available on Saturday.

Other Countries Testing experiences

Countries that have been successful in keeping the Covid-19 death rate low, and swiftly managing to “flatten the curve” of infections have one thing in common – mass testing from the start of the Pandemic.

South Korea

By the time the World Health Organization issued its plea in mid-March for countries to “test, test, test”, South Korea had spent weeks doing just that, quickly developing the capability to test an average of 12,000 people – and sometimes as many as 20,000 – a day at hundreds of drive-through and walk-in testing centres. The mobile centres conducted the tests free of charge within 10 minutes, with the results were sent to people’s phones within 24 hours. By mid-March more than 270,000 people had been tested.

On Thursday 23rd April, South Korea reported 2 new Covid-19 cases, which brought the total number of patients to 10,702, more than 8,400 of whom have recovered. With 240 deaths so far, South Korea has one of the lowest Covid-19 case mortality rates in the world, at 2.23%.

Other countries are now looking to South Korea and its three guiding principles on how to reign in the outbreak: Expansive testing, contact tracing and quarantining.

The government’s newly released 90 page playbook on how to contain the coronavirus, Flattening the curve on Covid-19: the Korean experience, says: “South Korea successfully flattened the curve on Covid-19 in 20 days without enforcing extreme draconian measures that restrict freedom and movement of people.” Well worth a read Mr Hancock !!

Source – full article – https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/23/test-trace-contain-how-south-korea-flattened-its-coronavirus-curve?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0d1YXJkaWFuVG9kYXlVS19XZWVrZGF5cy0yMDA0MjM%3D&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email&utm_campaign=GuardianTodayUK


 Germany has the fifth highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, but has managed to keep its death toll down to just over 5,575, a far lower tally than in many other countries, mainly through early and extensive testing. Germany has one of the highest testing rates in the world (24,738 / million pop) along with Switzerland  (26,293 / million pop) and Portugal (29,473 /million pop).

“It is precisely because the figures give rise to hope that I feel obliged to say that this interim result is fragile,” Merkel told parliament. “We are still far from out of the woods. We are not in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning.”


Countries testing too late

Spain (19,896 /million pop) and Italy (26,131 /million pop) also now have high testing rates, but these testing programmes were not introduced at the start of the Pandemic , much too late for containment.  

The same applies to the UK (8,595 / million pop) and USA (14,189 / million pop). However, these belated testing programmes are to be welcomed, particularly for essential workers in the UK, including Care home staff.

Data sources – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

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