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What is the maximum number of COVID-19 tests which could be performed until the end of the year?

by Roko Jelavić1 min read5th Apr 20202 comments

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When it comes to testing capability, something has to be the bottleneck, perhaps reagents. What is the theoretical limit for the number of tests? Can tests be recycled?

If we reduce the number of covid cases to a low count using a quarantine, we will need tests in order to keep the number low. In case we run out of tests, the virus will spread all over the place again, since we would not be able to implement contact tracing.

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PCR based tests consist of some standard chemicals to run a reaction, some custom chemicals to target the reaction to test what you want to test, and a big complicated machine that runs the reaction. The chemicals and some plastic tubes are irreversibly consumed by the reaction as are ancillary equipment like pipette tips and swabs.

The current bottleneck in the US appears to be the equipment that runs and reads the reaction. Iceland briefly had a bottleneck in swabs.

Once antibody tests exist, they do not require nearly as special equipment for the test itself and instead the bottleneck becomes production of the reagents that go into test strips.