Cheap COVID-19 Test Kits Will Curb the Outbreak: Top Economist
Tue, April 20, 2021

Cheap COVID-19 Test Kits Will Curb the Outbreak: Top Economist

 

2018 Nobel Prize in Economics co-recipient Paul Romer believes that having cheap COVID-19 test kits will help curb the pandemic. / Photo by danielmarin via Shutterstock

 

2018 Nobel Prize in Economics co-recipient Paul Romer believes that having cheap COVID-19 test kits will help curb the pandemic. By “cheap,” he meant as easy as buying a “morning latte.”

The American economist, who is also a professor at New York University, said via Daily Mail UK that more availability of the test kits will enable anyone with a negative test in the last 24 hours to resume work, take a flight, or go to restaurants. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this week that the coronavirus testing in the UK will increase to 25,000 a day. Their country’s publicly funded healthcare system National Health Service's frontline will be the priority for the test. Doctors and nurses stationed in hospitals have been calling for more test kits so they will immediately know whether they are infected with the coronavirus and are in danger of passing it to their patients. A junior doctor in the UK has started an online petition that gathered 70,000 signatures.

From 5,000, they previously increased the testing to 10,000 people a day. Labor leader Jeremey Corbyn then pointed out that the healthcare frontline in the country is larger than that so they moved it up to 25,000. Even the World Health Organization has advised countries that the key to China and South Korea’s bringing down the number of COVID-19 cases was to test people suspected of infection as well as their contacts.

Romer, who was acknowledged for his work on the endogenous growth model – economic growth is the result of endogenous and not external forces - and emphasis on the use of technological innovations in macroeconomic analysis, tweeted that the test kits should be like a “morning latte.” People can just get them each morning for about less than $10. If people were able to shrink bigger computers to fit in a pocket, it is possible to improve testing too. He also urged the American government to contribute some of its funds to protect the economy by distributing and improve the testing kits.

 

The low testing rate in the US vs. other countries

Currently, the US government plans to spend about $1 trillion to protect its economy. If 10% of it is spent on improving the tests for coronavirus, the country can reach its goal of universal and frequent testing that is done with little disruption to our lives. The daily likewise reported that the US and Britain have the lowest rates of coronavirus testing. In other countries, their testing is “far more aggressive,” he noted. The top economist mentioned that South Korea was able to test 3,700 people per million. As of now, US tests 100 people per million and Britain tests 600 people per million.

If tests are cheap and are something that everyone can do and only takes a few minutes, it would help reduce the number of coronavirus cases and curb the outbreak.

 

 

Coronavirus testing: statistics

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shared the number of tests performed per country or territory: Armenia (813), Australia (113,615), Austria (15,613), Bahrain (18,645), Belarus (16,000), Belgium (18,360), Brazil (2,927),  Canada – Alberta (17,013), Canada – Ontario (19,511), Canada – Quebec (10,451), China – Guangdong (320,000), Columbia (4,103), Costa Rica (1,039), Croatia (1,264), Czech Republic (11,619), Denmark (10,730), Faeroe Islands (1,641), Estonia (2,504), Finland (3,000), France (36,747), Germany (167,000), Hong Kong (5,271), Hungary (3,007), Iceland (9,189), India (14,514), Indonesia (2,028), Iran (80,000), Ireland (6,600), Israel (10,864), Italy (206,886), Japan (14,901), and Kyrgyzstan (1,545).

Other countries and territories are also included in the list, including Latvia (3,205), Lithuania (1,154), Malaysia (13,876), Malta (889), Mexico (278), Netherlands (6,000), New Zealand (584), Norway (43,735), Pakistan (1,979), Palestine (2,519), Panama (1455), Philippines (1,269), Poland (13,072), Qatar (8,400), Romania (8,284), Russia (143,519), Slovakia (2,707), Slovenia (9,860), South Africa (6,438), South Africa (316,664), Spain (30,000), Sweden (14,300), Switzerland (4,000), Taiwan (21,376), Thailand (7,084), Turkey (2,900), Ukraine (316), United Arab Emirates (125,000), United Kingdom (64,621), United States (103,945), United States – CDC samples tested (37,646), and Vietnam (15,637).

German database company Statista also confirmed it based on their March 17, 2020 data, comparing the number of COVID-19 tests performed per million of the population. The countries included were the UAE (12,738 per million of the population), South Korea (5,567), Italy (2,514), Sweden (1,413), United Kingdom (749), Japan (130), United States (125), and Vietnam (99). Statista journalist Niall McCarthy said that as the pandemic exploded in the last weeks, the United States was still “slow” and trails behind other countries that are also experiencing the same scale of outbreaks based on the number of COVID-19 tests already carried out.

The combination of social distancing measures, widespread testing, effecting tracing, and quarantine has led South Korea to stabilize the outbreak. Other countries have emulated this approach. On March 11 alone, South Korea was able to test 4,099 people per million of its people but the United States only managed to test 26 people per million of its inhabitants. There is another country that exceeded South Korea’s effort and that is the United Arab Emirates, which managed to test 12,738 of its people per million inhabitants as of March 16.

 

 

DIY coronavirus test introduced by UK firm

PM Johnson mentioned that the UK was in negotiations to purchase vast quantities of “antibody test” to determine if a person had the virus and “recovered from it.” This was, however, in contrast with his words during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. At that time, he insisted that the UK had a “fantastic” and “extremely well-prepared” testing system. In his recent comment about the need to “scale up” the testing in the UK, he said that the antibody test can be done as simple as a pregnancy test.

England-based medical equipment manufacturer SureScreen Diagnostics Ltd also reported that it had created a “finger-prick test” that only takes 10 minutes to make a diagnosis of a person and is accurate 98% of the time. It can detect antibodies produced in the body to fight off the virus. Those who test positive in the antibody test, which means that they have already been infected without knowing the symptoms, can return to work as they will not contract the virus again and pass it on to others.

UK’s approach to coronavirus testing is also a game-changer to determine who is safe and can resume their normal life without fear of spreading the virus or contracting it.

 

SureScreen Diagnostics Ltd also reported that it had created a “finger-prick test” that only takes 10 minutes to make a diagnosis of a person and is accurate 98% of the time. / Photo by science photo via Shutterstock