In an attempt to curb a second wave of coronavirus,some European countries are turning to cheaper, faster testing options. These tests are often less accurate than the alternatives, but they are considered necessary to avoid shortages and delays in diagnosing people.
The WHO reported 2 million new cases in the last week. This brings the global total to 37 million. And, as the winter flu season approaches, health experts have expressed concerns that many countries are not prepared for further increases in cases in the coming months.
As restrictions have been gradually lifted across the EU, countries are struggling to contain the number of new cases. Being able to test is vital to rapid tracking and tracing.
This has led to skyrocketing demand for test kits. For example, Germany, which has seen infections rise quickly in the last few weeks, has just finalized a deal for approximately 9 million antigen tests per month, which would cover around 10% of the population.
Elsewhere in Europe, France has committed to over a million tests per week, although this has resulted in large queues and delays in getting results. Italy is testing around 800,000 people per week, but again, there are delays and experts warn this number isn’t sufficient.
Additionally, countries outside Europe, including Canada, the US, and elsewhere, have been purchasing millions of testing kits from various international suppliers.
Some medical experts are recommending antigen tests alongside the typical PCR testing, which are currently used to diagnose patients. PCR tests are more effective, but they are in short supply as labs and manufacturers have struggled to meet demand.
Antigen tests detect proteins from the surface of the virus, rather than genetic material. This means that they can cause more false negatives, although they are widely available and already being used in the travel industry. But, there are still concerns over accuracy, even though they are becoming essential in fighting the virus.
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