To Test, or Not to Test. (You Should Test)

Canadians can, and I imagine that Government officials are as well, learning from other countries on the best practises to ward off COVID-19. The Associated Press reported on how Iceland had kept such a small number of deaths (10) despite having over 1000 confirmed cases¹. Iceland has seen a steady and dramatic fall from 106 new cases at the peak of the outbreak, to single digits, and on some days even zero. Iceland can boast of its COVID-19 success as part of the a rigorous testing and tracking procedure, implanted by authorities and officials early on, infected individuals were identified and isolated early on, even when there were no signs of symptoms.

Part of their pandemic success is also due to their small population, approximately 360,000. Within 6 weeks however, Iceland managed to test 50,000 people. Iceland has been preparing for a global pandemic since 2004 and the hospitals began testing those arriving from abroad a month before the first confirmed case, and the media focused on handwashing and social distancing. The country has avoided a complete economic shutdown, as other European countries have had to resort to such, as high schools, hair salons and other businesses have re-opened this past Monday. So why don’t other countries follow the same sort of strategy?

The UK was one of the larger countries trying to emulate Iceland, quarantining passengers returning from virus hot-spots, implementing test-and-trace methods to identify and isolate the infected. Because of the overwhelming impact and congestion greatly dampened Britain’s testing capacity. The country had to abandon this strategy. The UK has now surpassed Italy in the number of COVID-19 deaths,, 29,427 to 29,315 as reported by the BBC³. That’s very alarming, considering at one time Italy was the main focus of the virus for a while, but experts warn that you shouldn’t just blindly compare these numbers as Italy has a smaller population and they had conducted more tests that the UK.

During today’s Canadian COVID-19 press conference, Dr. Terresa Tam emphasized the importance on handwashing and that we have conducted over 900, 000 tests to date, with a 6% of those tests coming back as positive. Testing and contact tracing, which we now have learned can be crucial, yet presents as being a possible burden on our health care system. Looking back, maybe if we had taken this virus more seriously, instead of having PM Trudeau attended conferences around the world, we could have also had a similar outcome to Iceland; yet, Tam addresses this conern earlier on April 27th, saying that it wasn’t serious enough at the time Canada had only 10 confirmed cases from those returning abroad². Surely Iceland didn’t think so, and perhaps now Tam is reconsidering her approach. When you think of testing, you also need to think of having proper control in place, with added risk of mixing vials or results, and the possibility of contamination. France has confirmed5 that a patient who was tested a few days before China had announced that there was an unidentified disease within their country, has now been confirmed as having COVID-19. This would just add more ammunition to fire at China for concealing the viral outbreak, if this patient had been to China. It’s almost laughable now that we see that the virus was said to come from a lab in china by evidence supported by Trump, just to have Dr. Faucci saying that he has seen evidence that the virus came from the wet market. Another piece of information is that since the first SARS outbreak, Chinese researchers have regularly been testing bats that dwell in the Caves; Wuhan-based virologist Shi Zhengli has found at least a dozen, and warns there are a lot more4.

Sources:
¹ https://apnews.com/b13115dba10ad0aa4f9e1f22a3403c3b

² https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/theresa-tam-could-have-acted-sooner-1.5546819

³ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52549860

4 https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-chinas-bat-woman-hunted-down-viruses-from-sars-to-the-new-coronavirus1/

5 https://globalnews.ca/news/6905913/france-coronavirus-first-case/

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