CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know about Covid-19 testing

Everything you need to know about Covid-19 testing, who should get tested for coronavirus and how the testing is carried out.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know about Covid-19 testing
LUONG THAI LINH EFE

The best way to get out ahead of the coronavirus pandemic is to test widely. Some countries have been quick to respond to the threat and others have lagged. South Korea, for example, set up wide scale testing as soon as the first case was confirmed and they have some of the lowest numbers in the world of confirmed cases and deaths. The US, on the other hand, have struggled to set up testing. “Testing is the biggest problem that we’re facing,” Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital said recently.

We have been overwhelmed with statistics since the outbreak but one particular statistic from Harvard's article on testing paints a vivid picture. South Korean have tested 4,000 people per one million people. The USA have tested five people per one million people.

Coronavirus testing: what you need to know

According to UCDavis, testing is not necessary for many cases. There came a stage of the pandemic when contact tracing, another aspect of pandemic prevention South Korea did relentlessly, is no longer necessary. So many people have it now that trying to trace people who have been in contact with someone who might have it is futile.

This is part of the reason, of course, why statistics have been both misleading and outright wrong from many countries. Many of us might know someone who has been diagnosed over the phone or who had it without suffering from many of the worst symptoms. In Spain, for example, when younger people who thought they have contracted the virus, called the emergency services, they were told that they might have it. They were informed to stay at home, self-isolate and not to come into the hospital until symptoms worsened.

Coronavirus testing: how testing is done

The video below from the New England Journal of Medicine shows how a test is carried out.

"Testing for COVID-19 involves inserting a 6-inch long swab (like a long Q-tip) into the cavity between the nose and mouth (nasopharyngeal swab) for 15 seconds and rotating the swab several times. The swabbing is then repeated on the other side of the nose to make sure enough material is collected. The swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing," is how UCDavis explain testing procedure.

In South Korea, they had the capability to return results within hours so people didn't have to sit and wait for days in a self-isolation unit at a hospital or go back out into public life not knowing if they had it or now. The former issue leads to clustering and has led to many tragedies in nursing homes and hospitals.

There has been issues in the US with flawed test results also and Spain bought a shipment of testing kits from China that had just a 30% success rate.