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Thursday, 25 November 2021

Austria is Locking Down Again

Austria announced last Friday that they are locking down.  This is the fourth national lockdown.   The lockdown will begin on 24 November;  it is likely to last for the next 10 to 20 days. 

This lockdown shall make  Austria the second European country, after Latvia, to impose lockdown measures since vaccines became widely available earlier this year.  Further,  Austria is contemplating making vaccination compulsory.  

What's the use of Lockdown?

Lockdown is an effective but primitive way to curb the spreading of all types of diseases. Lockdown has been used for centuries whenever there is an epidemic.  The idea is to isolate the patients especially those asymptomatic ones so that they won't have a chance to roam around, spreading the diseases to other healthy people in the Community.  This article will show that asymptomatic patients are responsible for more than 60% of the Covid transmission.    

Lockdown is good,  but it comes with a price.  Many people especially those in Western Countries so hated lockdown that they often went to the streets protesting against such practices.   

Mass testing will also have the same effect of "isolating" those asymptomatic after "flushing" them out from the community.   ART is a good alternative to mass PCR testings.   Proper use and handling of ART is not only cheaper but also more cost-effective. 

The Situation Right Now in Austria

It is not looking good.   The infection cases shot up about 3 times from 586 per million on Oct 12 to about 1562 per million on Nov 22 for slightly more than 40 days.  It is sad to see that the death rate has also doubled in that period.  However, it was not as serious as before and after 2/3 of the residents have been vaccinated.

What could have happened?

A new Covid wave has been formed except this time,  Austria is better prepared as shown by the following charts.

The charts show clearly that Austria has done plenty of testing.  The rate is around 77 tests per 1000 people. This rate is about 4 times more than the UK's 13.5 and 15 times more than Singapore's 3.2.  However,  the positive rate of the test is not high @ 2.8%.   The exceptional high testing rate in Austria explains why its infection rate has gone up so fast and so sharp.   The charts also show that Singapore's positive rate is exceptionally high @ about 17% which is about 4 times that of the UK's  4.6%. 

Why Singapore has such a high Positive Rate?

Normally,  any Epedilogist will say countries having a high Positive Rate is not a good thing.  It means the infection is very serious;  there must be a lot more other infection cases still roaming in the streets.  The infection wave is not over.   More new cases are expected.   However,  this is not the case in Singapore.   Singapore has just seen its new cases drop by 2/3 over one month. This is as shown in the following chart which is plotted in the daily-infection interval.   The new cases dropped from 976 per million on 27 October to 326 per million on 23 November.   

Why so?

It has something to do with the mandatory Antigen Rapid Testing (ART) that Singapore has just implemented in September 2021,  and the detail of which is explained here.  Singapore managed to find 5 times more or about 3,000 to 4,000 asymptomatic patients per day using ART and isolate them quickly to prevent them from spreading Covid in the community.  

As the Singapore Authority is replacing the screening PCR testings,  they cut down the PCR testing frequency,  resulting in higher positive rates as illustrated in this chart

In Singapore's case,  the higher positive rates are not caused by the seriousness of the infection.   

How Austria can Get such a high Testing rate but a low positive rate?

This might have something to do with the free and uniquely PCR Self-Test method introduced by Austria in September 2021.

In such an exercise,  everyone in Vienna will be given a PCR test (gargle box) free.  They can pick up the box at any of the 22 BIPA outlets.  After doing the test,  the box is handed over to the REWE outlets or the petrol stations.  Users can get the test result within 24 hours. 

The exercise could have gathered lots of  PCR testing samples.  Because 2 tests are required to confirm infection cases and they have to go through each and every one of those samples,  the positive rate would naturally be lower.

Because of the very high testing rate and high infection cases which primarily are assumed to be asymptomatic patients,  Austria should see the crisis over in a very short time.

Can Other Countries do the same as Singapore?

There should not be any reason why other countries cannot do and repeat the same;  after all, the ART testing method started in Europe and the US.   All they have to do is to make ART testing kits easily accessible to residents.   People are curious by nature and afraid to die.  They will want to know what's wrong with them.  They will use the testing kits one way or another.

As for Singapore,  it should not rest on its laurels.   It should continue to make improvements,  making ART test kits freely available and accessible to all Singaporeans,  residents, and even the short-term travelers at no or little cost over 24/7 outlets using ATM machines located all over the island.  After all,  asymptomatic are the ones that contributed most of the infection cases because of the sheer numbers.  The government could save the cost through savings in the reduced numbers of PCR testings.


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