Mass screening is the best solution to master the pandemic, prevent lockdown and come back to normality. This strategy will always pay-off even when a vaccine will be available as viruses mutate and new vaccine have to be developed regularly (e.g. the annual influenza vaccination). So what is a mass screening and what are the benefit for each of us, for the companies and for the country?
How mass screening works and why is it so efficient?
The mass screening involves testing a population, or a group of people such as all the employees of a company. By doing it regularly (we recommend every three days), one can spot individuals who have been infected but are not infectious yet (the incubation period last between 3 and 14 days). These infected individuals can self-isolate and go through quarantine before becoming infectious and endangering the people around them (family, colleagues, etc.). This not only stops the spread of the disease but also allows infected individuals to be treated very early thus, improving recovery. Furthermore, it becomes unnecessary for close contacts (K1) of the infected individual to undergo quarantine (Figure below).
What are the benefits of implementing mass screening as a preventive measure?
1 – for everyone’s comfort and health
- Mass screening reduces the number of infected people and the death toll.
- Ensures a safe working environment and reduces stress for employees.
- Lets people live normally.
2 – for the economy
- With these preventive measures, it is possible to maintain schools, hospitals, and elderly homes open while providing safe workspaces and more serenity for everyone (pupils, parents, teachers, patients, healthcare workers, etc.).
- Governments can avoid lockdowns and keep economic and social activities up and running to ensure a continuous revenue stream for companies and for the country.
- Reducing the dramatic negative impact of the pandemic on the EBIT of companies and GDP of countries (for instance, Austrian GDP dropped by 12.1% in 2nd quarter of 2020 due to the lockdown measures, corresponding to a gap more than 10 billion Euros).
What are the benefits of implementing mass screening to follow-up infected people?
The period of quarantine could be managed more precisely and adapted to each individual. Infected people who are not infectious anymore could be back to work before the end of the current long quarantine period without endangering their colleagues or customers. This is particularly important for the activity of self-employed workers and small companies, but every day saved on unnecessary sick leave has also a strong impact on the social security debt.
Why mass screening was not implemented so far or just sporadically in some countries?
This testing was not possible before for technical reasons and due to the high cost of tests. Moreover, existing to date approaches (e.g. antigen tests) require thousands of testing sites to be set up across a country and thousands of medical staff to be involved even in countries with a population of around 5.5 millions as it has been done in Slovakia (5). With the new Lexogen assay based on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) technology, millions of people can be easily and quickly screened regularly, at a very low cost. NGS technology is the game changer making it easy and affordable (4).
More comfort for patients and easier to handle
Most PCR and antigen tests require an invasive nasopharyngeal sampling, which can be very painful according to individuals and which requires a “professional” for collection (5). The Lexogen NGS mass screening assay works with gargle samples. Patients can self-collect their sample at home by simply gargling a solution of water with a pinch of cooking salt (physiological saline) and spitting in a collection tube to be deposited in a lab for analysis. This saves a tremendous amount of time, pain and money… there’s no reason to keep doing painful COVID nasal swab tests!
1 – Harvard Health (2020, March) If You’ve Been Exposed to the Coronavirus. Harvard Health.
2 – Statistics Austria (2020, September) Drop of 12.1% in Austrian GDP in 2nd quarter 2020. Statistics Austria.
3 – Yahoo Finance (2020, November) Lexogen has developed the first commercial Covid-19 ultra-high-throughput test for true public health mass screening.
4 – Lexogen (2020, October) QuantSeq-Pool Targeted SARS-CoV-2 Panel for Illumina.
5 – Holt, Ed (2020, October) Slovakia to test all adults for SARS-CoV-2. The Lancet.