As the world adapts to a new “COVID-normal” world, health news has primarily focused on vaccine developments, herd immunity, case numbers and fatality rates. However, more and more experts are focusing on reducing testing times as a way of adjusting to life after the pandemic.
How tests are conducted now
Currently, COVID-19 testing relies predominantly on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are collected via nasal and throat swabs. While these tests aren’t overly invasive, the main problem with them is the time-delay; it takes 24 hours to get a result. Unfortunately, results can only be generated as quickly as the resources allow for, meaning some people are isolating for days and days before receiving their result. Naturally, this isn’t a practical long-term solution.
What are point-of-care tests?
Experts in Australia are arguing that point-of-care tests should be considered for future use, especially if vaccine efforts aren’t successful. An example of a point-of-care test would be a finger pinprick, which would be able to check for coronavirus antibodies. They aren’t as invasive as the current testing methods, and results can be released in 15 minutes.
How could they help?
Because more point-of-care tests could be administered at a quicker rate, state and federal governments would be able to develop a more reliable and accurate picture of where the virus is in the community. These tests could also help integrate some normality back to life, where they could be used in large workplaces, health facilities, schools and other facilities where large gatherings take place.
Such testing measures could also be used for airlines and allow countries to ease restrictions at a quicker rate. Borders could be opened, and domestic/international travel could return over a gradual period.
What’s the drawback?
One of the main drawbacks with this type of testing is that they cannot determine if someone is currently infectious, or recently been infected but is no longer contagious or symptomatic.