Perils of not knowing our epidemic: Could reducing testing be counter-productive?
SHOBHA SHUKLA, BOBBY RAMAKANT - CNS
self-testing is important cog-in-the-wheel to ensure we know the epidemic we fighting
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Think: Given the enormity with which the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives for more than past two years, who will risk being caught in an Ostrich syndrome? But this is what is happening: declining COVID-19 testing in several countries is very alarming, along with sketchy genome sequencing capacity which seriously limits and jeopardizes the ability of health agencies to respond with effective and timely disease control measures.
11th March 2020 and 30th January 2020
Before we speak of COVID-19, let us acknowledge the importance of the eleventh of March 2022: Two years ago on 11 March 2020, the United Nations health agency (World Health Organization - WHO), had declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Almost six weeks prior to this important declaration, on 30 January 2020, the WHO had declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. Back then, as of 20 January 2020, 282 confirmed cases (only 4 of them were outside of China) had been reported and no deaths had occurred globally, outside of China. However, by the end of January 2020, 9826 cases had been confirmed globally, and only 106 of them were outside of China, which had also recorded 213 deaths. Today, within a span of more than two torturous years, over six million people have died worldwide due to COVID-19 and over 450 million have suffered the disease - and we all know these are underreported numbers.
Ignorance is not bliss: Knowing our pandemic is vital
Although reported cases and deaths are declining globally and several countries have lifted restrictions, the pandemic is far from over - it will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere. Many countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing surges of cases and deaths.
"The virus continues to evolve, and we continue to face major obstacles in distributing vaccines, tests and treatments everywhere they are needed. WHO is concerned that several countries are drastically reducing testing. This inhibits our ability to see where the virus is, how it is spreading and how it is evolving. Testing remains a vital tool in our fight against the pandemic, as part of a comprehensive strategy" said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.
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