Society not ready to fully reopen, even with mass testing
Plans to make mass testing against Covid-19 available from March do not mean the end of the coronavirus crisis. This was reported by a team of epidemiologists from the University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC).
This week, Health Minister, Hugo de Jonge, launched a plan to have the test capacity scaled up massively in March so that every Dutch person can have him/herself tested monthly. Society should be able to ease lockdown measures with such large-scale testing measures, said the Minister.
However, more testing won’t mean an end to the crisis, emphasizes Marc Bonten, head of research at the UMC. “Regular mass screening, followed by the isolation of infected people, does not seem like a realistic strategy to fully reopen society after the current corona wave.”
He asserts that more targeted tests will be needed. “For example, we can think of mass testing in parts of the country where the infection and transmission rates have been high.”
The idea is to ramp up testing so massively that asymptomatic people can get tested as well. The fact that the virus can be spread by people who don’t show any symptoms has been one of the main challenges in controlling the virus.
The researchers estimate that without social distancing measures, every Dutch person would have to get tested every three days to keep the virus under control. Even if 1.5-meter social distancing rules remain the norm for a while, it still means that ten million people would need to be tested every week.
The model study did not take into account the distribution of an effective vaccine.