Widespread COVID-19 testing is correlated with fewer cases

Countries need to think about building surge capacity in traditional public-health approaches to control the virus’s spread—disease surveillance, contact tracing, and targeted quarantines. Such a surge must build on current efforts to scale viral testing rapidly, mostly through reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction machines. That’s because—in a somewhat surprising relationship—countries that have tested more people have diagnosed fewer cases per thousand people. To detect and control flare-ups quickly, widespread access to viral testing will become increasingly important as countries and cities prepare to relax distancing measures. In some countries, this testing capacity could be paired with at-scale contact tracing, embedded with privacy by design, and with quarantine facilities to help localize hot spots and prevent a broader resurgence.

Countries with the widest testing tend to have the fewest cases per 1,000 people.

To read the article, see “COVID-19: Briefing note, April 13, 2020,” April 2020.