Imagine that you aren’t allowed entry to your favourite activity without passing a rapid Covid-19 test. Passing, of course, means failing, meaning you are negative for Covid-19. But if all who are allowed entry have failed the test, then no one engaged in the activity is an active spreader of the disease.
If this were to be done, then we could allow cruise ships, we could allow parliament to sit, we could allow all our commercial activities to resume. We could return to life in some form of normal.
Why do we not allow this? Because we want all testing to meet the gold standard. The consequence, however, is that our economy and society are grinding to a stop.
Any testing has false positives and false negatives. Provided the rate of the false results is the same in one form of testing compared to another, we can have the same confidence that we have limited the spread of the disease.
This is the case of the rapid tests that are available. They are as reliable as the PCR tests, yet cheaper. They can be administered by anybody, and do not require a professional specialist. They can be done at home. They are rapid, the results are known in a matter of minutes not days. They test for a different product of the virus. Instead of looking for the active agent itself, the RNA of the virus, they look for the product of the virus, a protein. The detection of the protein ensures we look for the contagious members of our community. By removing them from further contact, we are isolating the source of contagion.
The logistics of doing the testing are different. For a cruise ship, for example, no one would be allowed on board without passing the test. Special units would be set up on shore. A triage room would be required, where crew, passengers and visitors, wait for the test to mature, suitably masked and distanced. Once cleared, then boarding can happen, and masks can be dispensed with! Periodic onboard testing and other measures will still be required, as well as different procedures at ports of call. Life can return to normal, since no one on board is a carrier. The same for getting access to parliament. The triage is done on entry. A delay of perhaps 15 minutes is added to the day. But once inside, no worries about transmissibility can exist.
Save for the false negatives. But that’s the case anyway! So that worrying about them doesn’t make you any safer. The same triage would happen every time you re-enter the facility. If you fail the triage, then access would have to be denied. But so you should be anyway. But there’s no need to complain about the process. Get on with what you have to do.
The question is how to get out of the Covid-19 pandemic quickly. The answer has to include massive rapid testing. Let’s do it. Let’s introduce a massive program of instant rapid testing wherever we need people to gather, wherever we want life to return to normal. Let’s do the testing.