Testing for the coronavirus might have stopped it. Now it’s too late. By William Hanage.
The battle to keep covid-19 from becoming established in the United States is probably over without a single shot being fired. We were not outwitted, outpaced or outflanked. We knew what was coming. We just twiddled our thumbs as the coronavirus waltzed in. …
The United States has lagged far behind the rest of the world in testing for the new coronavirus. As a result, outbreaks here are likely to be more numerous and more difficult to control than they would have been otherwise. I research infectious disease and how to fight it, so I know how important it is to detect outbreaks early. The covid-19 outbreak is the largest acute infectious-disease emergency most of us have experienced. And we may have let it go undetected here for too long.
For countries that are lucky enough so far to have been spared large covid-19 outbreaks, the way to handle the virus is simple: Strangle it at birth. If you detect it while there are still just a handful of cases, it is comparatively easy to chase down the contacts of the people who have it, isolate them quickly and halt transmission. If that fails, stopping transmission might take measures like the draconian restrictions imposed in China, which — while apparently successful — we should wish to avoid.
This is for the US, but the situation is broadly similar in Australia. One difference is that it is much easier to isolate Australia. We’ve missed our chance to close the borders and escape with only light damage. So, heavy damage coming.
hat-tip Stephen Neil