Canton Graubünden starts mass population Covid-19 testing

GRISONS

The health authorities of Graubünden insist. In recent days, the Rhaetian government’s promise, having positively assessed the pilot projects carried out in recent weeks in the southern valleys of the canton is to provide regular large-scale tests in school and company centers. Grisons - it has been clearly stated - want to take on a pioneering role in the field of COVID-19 testing. In short, mass tests, at least for now, remain an exclusively Graubünden prerogative.

 Canton Graubünden starts mass population Covid-19 testing
Mass test: «Photography more than strategy»

Canton Graubünden starts mass population Covid-19 testing

Mass test: «Photography more than strategy»

 Canton Graubünden starts mass population Covid-19 testing
Rudolf Hauri, President of the Cantonal Medical Association: «Mass tests under discussion»

Canton Graubünden starts mass population Covid-19 testing

Rudolf Hauri, President of the Cantonal Medical Association: «Mass tests under discussion»

What is the real impact of this approach in the fight against the coronavirus? We reached out to Didier Trono, EPFL professor and head of the diagnostics and testing group of the national scientific task force. «As demonstrated by attempts made elsewhere, I think of Slovakia, Austria, and some studies, these mass tests are not without impact. Of course, several positive cases can be found, tracked, quarantined, but the price to pay is still high, mainly in logistical terms, and then the membership of the public, if it is not really extensive, leads to a rather weak impact. It can work on a closed population, with no contact with the outside, and everyone should be tested twice over a few days, isolating each case. In Vienna, for example, just 13% of the population took part ... But according to some projections, even if 70% of the population adhered, the cases would be reduced by 20-30%, and only in the two-three weeks before the test, not beyond. Then the cases would come up». «In short, mass tests require massive adhesion and a logistical structure to manage the scale» «It requires a lot of testing, space, and people in the sameme place is not exactly ideal at this moment».

The nature of the test itself can be discussed, which as we know in these cases would be the rapid, antigenic one. A test that is unable to find positivity in those who are not contagious, in those who have no symptoms. Trono sums up: «They are tests that make sense on a limited population, with full adherence and with a second test to follow, 3-4 days after the first. In the Grisons the experiment had worked, but it had been done in a small valley. Then the tourists arrived ». «And as we have seen in recent days, the cases have increased. «In short, the benefits of such a campaign are relative» concludes Trono. The Rhaetian authorities disagree. The Graubünden coronavirus communication service answered our questions, starting with the first experiments carried out. «The analysis of the tests carried out in the regions, between companies and schools, it shows that regular testing reduces the number of infections. In all regions where sweeping tests took place, the number of new infections was reduced for at least five days. Thanks to regular control tests, this evolution in the Bernina region persists. The fact of repeatedly testing asymptomatic people shows a clear measurable effect and is therefore a suitable measure to break the chains of contagion ». «As mentioned, the Grisons firmly believe in this solution. Absolutely»! «But it is important that the tests recognize and isolate people who are asymptomatic and are carried out in a coordinated manner and on a large scale».

Will the new variants force the authorities to review their strategy in terms of misdirection? we ask Didier Throne: «What we will do is intensify the measures. These variants accelerate the infections, so it is necessary to consolidate basic precautions, minimizing social contacts and continuing the vaccination campaign. In fact, a situation of mini-lockdown, if combined with isolations, quarantines and repeated tests, and can facilitate the slowdown of infections». «But it is a more complex reasoning than a «simple» mass test campaign». «You will understand the complexity of testing 8 million people twice in a matter of days. It is not so much the cost, because a lockdown is more expensive, but logistically it would be very complicated, not to mention the participation of the population». «Ticino, following this reasoning, has never delved into this opportunity».

Norman Gobbi underlined the greater mobility that characterizes our canton in relation to the Grisons, and Giorgio Merlani, cantonal doctor, reiterated the concepts expressed by Trono: «It is only a momentary snapshot» he told Modem yesterday, adding himself: «And then Ticino is a passageway.

We are preparing detailed planning. We start with tests in companies and schools on January 27th. For the vaccination and testing centers it is expected to open on January 25th.

The canton of Graubünden has started mass population tests. What are your thoughts on this strategy?

«Mass testing is always a subject of discussion. So far there is no scientific evidence to support this strategy. In connection with outbreak investigations, in many cantons, however, regular in-depth tests are carried out. Mass tests on asymptomatic people can provide a current overview, a snapshot of the moment. To be truly effective, however, they should be repeated on a regular basis. In any case, the scientific world is looking at the Graubünden program with great interest. However, it is difficult to propose a similar strategy across the country. In fact, people should regularly undergo tests so that the `` x-ray ‘’ of the progress of the pandemic is truly accurate and truthful. In addition, even without deploying such means, cases are decreasing throughout Switzerland».

The Chur authorities will also offer the test in schools. A Swiss innovation. What is the position of the Cantonal Medical Association on swabs on children and young people? «We look forward to the program and the test results in schools. Tests are likely to be done regularly. Any more knowledge that can help us limit the pandemic is welcome».

Rapid tests will also be used. How effective are these tools?

«Rapid antigen tests in people without symptoms can in some cases lead to incorrect assessments. A person can be identified as infected when they are not. And vice versa. These are the so-called false positives respectively, false negatives. A PCR test is more reliable.

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