Shortage Of Covid-19 Test Kits And Low Test Rates Will Lead To Virus Spreading Rampantly Around The World
: The acute shortage of test kits for Covid-19 and also many countries not conducting testing as freely due to the shortage and financial constraints means the world is effectively fighting the pandemic crisis blindly and may not know the true extent of infection for months if not years, medical experts are warning.
As Covid-19 is highly infectious, about 2.5 times that of the common cold and not everyone presents symptoms, the figure of more than 245,800 confirmed cases as of today tells only a fraction of the story.
Dr Jerry Shaman, a diseases expert at the University of Columbia, said that it was "likely" that developed nations are identifying between one in five and one in 10 true infections.
Some experts are saying that in some South East Asian countries, it could even be just like one in 800 to 2000 infections are being detected.
He further added there was a variety of reasons, including "test availability, capacity, ignorance (not taking the issue seriously), arrogance (national pride)."
The British government this week conceded it was likely there were already more than 55,000 COVID-19 infections in the country, far more than the more than 2,600 confirmed cases so far.
Low detection rates are a huge problem for governments looking to slow the spread and reduce the strain on health systems.
Dr Shaman added, "Many of these infections are mild but still contagious. So they go about their normal routine, go to work, use public transportation, go shopping and spread the virus in the broader community.They unwittingly take the virus to new places by auto, train or plane."
Though it is generally accepted that patients showing symptoms are more contagious than those exhibiting no sign of infection, the idea of millions of infected people mixing with vulnerable groups will not comfort governments.
Testing capacity differs hugely, even among rich nations.
Dr Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institutes of Health, singled out South Korea for praise.
With sudden increases of infected cases in February, Korean authorities boosted testing capacity and implemented stringent measures to prevent further transmission. A real turning point was the strong increase in testing that they did.
One needs to know where you are in the epidemic to be able to do something about it. And to do that, one need to test.
WHO leader, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed the sentiment on Monday with a simple message for all countries: "test, test, test".
He said,"If they test positive, isolate them & find out who they have been in close contact with up to 2 days before they developed symptoms & test those people too."
Dr Sharon Lewin, head of the world-leading Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne, said another good example of testing and then tracing contacts of patients occurred in Singapore.
She said, "Very early on they did aggressive testing and chased down cases through contact tracing, and very aggressively quarantining contacts. They did some social distancing measures, but not as extreme. They closed schools for a while, but only for two or three weeks. They banned meetings, but people still went to work."
However, there is only a small window of opportunity to shut down an outbreak once a cluster of cases emerges. These seem to have caught authorities in Italy and Spain the two European countries worst hit by the pandemic, off guard.
To date, Italy had carried out 165,000 tests, compared with roughly 42,000 in France.
In the end, the true impact of the disease worldwide cannot be known until tests for COVID-19 antibodies for example those patients who had it and recovered are established. Many are in development.
However there are not suitable for the current situation where it is essential to detect those that are infected or just infected as fast as possible.
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