As residents of the lower mainland keep their eyes glued to the television in hopes of receiving positive updates in relation to this global pandemic, they are disappointed and disheartened by the exponentially increasing infection and death rate of the highly contagious COVID-19. The timeline and increase in numbers are highly reminiscent of the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, which has now amassed to over 59 000 infections and over 5000 deaths. With Canada seeming to follow these footsteps, one must wonder: “What are we doing wrong?” And, “how can we stop the spread of disease?”
To combat COVID-19, the World Health Organization recommends extensive testing, contact tracing, quarantining, isolation, and social/physical distancing. Although many of us have taken it upon ourselves to undertake the latter half, the BC government is only implementing public COVID-19 testing for those with respiratory symptoms who require hospitalization or were in specific locations with a large number of cases. However, this puts the general public at risk as, arguably, testing is the most important factor in countering the virus, with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus claiming, “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.” Echoing that statement, Andrea Crisanti, an infectious disease expert working in Italy, says “Test the neighborhood, test the relatives, test the friends, and isolate all positive individuals. If you do it now, you will stop the disease.”
Furthermore, if we are not testing – we cannot be contact tracing. Community transmission cases will not be tracked if we do not know who is sick to begin with, as the majority of those infected show only minor symptoms. Individuals with mild cases are more likely to be the ones that ignore social distancing guidelines. They may be going to work, going on grocery runs, or they may be one of those people we saw on the beaches of Vancouver, blatantly ignoring the appeals of Dr. Bonnie Henry, our provincial health officer. If social distancing rules are not being enforced, then at least rigorous testing should be.
Our current approach of only testing those that require hospitalization or those who were recently in a localized area with a large number of cases is nowhere near as effective as the policies set in other countries. South Korea, for example, has implemented the process of rigorous testing and it has allowed for the rate of infection to decrease. They were the first to incorporate multiple locations for drive through tests, and to date, have tested over 330 000 people, as opposed to Canada’s 88 883 (as of 5pm March 22nd, 2020). As of March 16, 2020, the infection rate in South Korea has been steadily declining, and currently, the fatality rate in South Korea for COVID-19 is 0.7%, which is drastically lower than the global average of 3.4%. It seems intuitive that Canada should start testing to the degree that South Korea is. Despite the BC government’s statement that testing is not necessary unless you’re a critical case, the truth is that we are actually not testing because we do not have the resources.
Therefore, the question becomes: “How come other countries are capable of testing at a much higher rate than we are?” One of the factors that has allowed South Korea to test rigorously is a rapid approval system that was put in place in response to the SARS pandemic that threatened the world in 2002-2003. Although we weren’t as prepared for a pandemic, we do currently have options that could allow us to reach the testing levels of South Korea. Canada could fast track test kits by looking at which tests are being approved in other countries. This could also battle the dilemma of facing limited resources by implementing different types of tests other than the popular nasopharyngeal swab. Many labs are coming out with various versions of rapid testing that detect antibodies via blood sample. These rapid tests allow anywhere from a 10-minute to 3-hour window to give a positive or negative result. Bangladesh and the United States have recently given the approval to use these alternative tests to the nasal swab so they can follow the WHO’s recommendation to “test, test, test.”
It is essential that we as a community come together to put pressure on our representatives to approve and implement rapid test kits so BC can catch up to the rest of the world in fighting this virus. We can contact our representatives, MP’s, and politicians for the safety of everyone in our community, including our grandparents, parents, and our immunocompromised friends. Please take a moment to look at the links below and write your concerns regarding our government’s lack of testing. If we put pressure on our government to fast-track more testing methods, perhaps we could all go back to our daily routines faster, and in the process, save a few lives.
City of Surrey
Mayor Doug McCallum:
Phone: (604) 591-4126
Member of Parliament for Surrey-Newton
Phone: (604) 598-2200
Member of Parliament for Surrey Centre
Phone: (604) 589-2441
-CDC Testing Procedures: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/testing-isolation?fbclid=IwAR2Nx80aPMlsDwWO7JROWcW_QIL-AkC45JXDe84g-RlhtaqRROVApcv26xQ
-Advice from Italy: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/coronavirus-canada-testing-symptoms-italy-1.5504780?fbclid=IwAR1KQnrI1iqTEzvJHZ_9RXGTocq9L6B8goH-8rJb1DGr8pAxGtFKsWU4fTM
-Key is to Test:
-Opinion Piece – Vancouver: https://www.squamishchief.com/pandemic-widespread-in-vancouver-as-testing-capacity-fails-needs-b-c-doctor-1.24100643?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&fbclid=IwAR3TPXHhVPVzZRUAy6f9yBbxQN6SuLE0btM0NsvrxBTBLf5awje0F1yzt8s
-South Korea Testing: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51970379
-Status Quo due to Testing Shortage: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/don-t-have-the-capacity-to-do-that-many-swabs-top-doctor-defends-covid-19-testing-1.4861872
-Testing for Health Care Workers: https://bccatholic.ca/news/catholic-van/vancouver-s-first-drive-through-covid-19-test-site-opens-for-health-care-workers?fbclid=IwAR1W3YXndsq_R27ctXtC_e9Dw9uQUDCM1L_HSC8eO14o0EezWssQEdwK1a4
-Bill Gates take on testing: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/world/covid-19-bill-gates-says-countries-that-test-for-coronavirus-will-bounce-back-in-weeks/article31106514.ece?fbclid=IwAR1NQ1foMtQ_WHTM9H47zkzWZDe9u0-8hyYuDgWpaLxmBCcH8M-kqbPf2Kk
-South Korea’s success: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/20/south-korea-rapid-intrusive-measures-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR27BRIg8y-HcUCw919cw1ECwz7AuNznE4HQoHBk3Nq9PNZ00rMwU2TBQCc
-Importance of testing mild symptoms: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00822-x?fbclid=IwAR2nQfu–ydCElzcEE6FiJaDf6kcD11zD7zts6iJuUItfbdLkuo1GLmDte4
-Rapid Testing: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200318005814/en/?fbclid=IwAR2IvC8Bw7yOOWln7-kieXOtiTOLu5OrRqUFC19iPPD_8lQhQExqB_kdbHk
-Bangladesh Rapid Tests: https://www.medicaldevice-network.com/news/bangladesh-low-cost-covid-19-test/
-Low Resources: https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/health-officials-explain-why-not-everyone-can-get-swabbed-for-covid-19-right-now-1.4855979?fbclid=IwAR3bGXY9SQ6sn_x44V3DJiG4Nvq1nuOVdyIUHSf_cbyKIkV0noYxAw-_4P4
-Coronavirus in South Korea: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-51836898?fbclid=IwAR0OYngfTviBJ20Fs44bSbO531FSD5c6vDaARmx72JMJSdlU7z6OskheY9Y
-Why we aren’t testing: https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/covid-testing-shortages-1.5503926?fbclid=IwAR12wq6MhFqcEd8Z_-IhGDY9d8P6YCHLCv1gtqS3bWgj0Ziernc0WcsEOHM
-South Korea Infection Rate: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/south-korea/?fbclid=IwAR3Bo70u4-SPt9jKkrJtqiyd3j4G6L–cyGF0ou_cEDsyeyx-0LOyujB-Y8
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