The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the world hard. Both short- and long-term measures to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases and prevent future outbreaks are urgently needed. While both drug and vaccine development is proceeding at an accelerated pace, there is still a mountain for researchers to climb.
The way forward could be to identify the small number of possible cases quickly and distance them from the rest of the population. In tandem, mass screening could be done to highlight those who are not infected, and these people could receive a "health visa".
For a "health visa", we would need a test where a negative result indicates no infection with high confidence. This is the same strategy used to screen blood donors for HIV infection to ensure that blood products are safe. Instead of a nasal or throat swab, saliva can be collected easily with no discomfort. Research has found that the virus can be found in salica as well.
Screening for negatives, owever, could sometimes result in a high proportion of false positive findings. Fortunately, technology now allows for three or more tests to be incorporated into a single device. In such tests, biosensors which identify viral prodcuts in the saliva can trigger specific optical signatures. These signatures are read off speedily, hopefully within minutes. If a result is positive, the test can automatically trigger other tests to ensure that the positive finding is truly indicative of infection, and not a false positive.
Mass self-screening using saliva, and rapid optical readings incorporating the reading device into personal mobile phones for periodic self-testing, complemented with daily temperature readings would allow everyone to maintain a "health visa" that is up to date, and work towards unlocking the lockdown.
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