The case for rapid testing

A reader writes in:

The Walk to Freedom

I’ve looked at the data and the facts and done the math and sadly I am still confused as to the
direction we are taking and why. Based on what I have researched I am led to believe that the
one thing that will contribute most to our future freedom is self testing. So here’s how I arrived at
that conclusion. I haven’t shown the source of info but it has all come from publicly available and
official sources. So it’s accurate and reliable.
What exactly is the problem and how can we solve it?

The Problem

The initial problem statement was the potential for 80,000 deaths. So pretty frightening. For
context in 2019 there were 34,000 deaths in NZ. Heart Disease, Diabetes and Cancer account for
around 70% of deaths. The number of deaths in 2020 after a year of lockdowns and Covid was
32,000.
The death rate in NZ for Covid is a little under 6 per thousand infections. For the current outbreak
it’s a little over 1 per thousand. For context the US death rate is 160 per thousand. If NZ’s public
health system was as bad as the US then at 160 per thousand NZs total deaths right now would
be around 800. In Sweden which avoided lockdowns the death rate is 14 per thousand. It would
seem that a lot of deaths in the first year of Covid were as a result of poor isolation in retirement
villages. This has since been addressed in most countries.
So those are the facts. We have over the last 18 months relied on experts manipulating data to
provide forecasts in order to predict our possible future in order to take corrective and
preventative action. Like the initial 80,000 deaths number these forecasts have proven inaccurate
yet they appear to be the single most important input to our Strategy.
So what are the possible solutions to be considered?

Lockdowns
Vaccinations
Testing
Treatments
Health Care Capacity

Lockdowns clearly helped in the first stage of elimination. Of course there are economic and
social downsides to a Lockdown. The second lockdown has been less successful. Partly due to
fatigue and for many a frustration of a strategy that for many makes no sense – especially when
comparing projections to reality. A case in point is “Delta is more deadly” – it may be more
infectious but the facts show that it has caused less deaths.

Vaccinations may have started relatively late – maybe because we stood aside for more needy
countries to get early supply. Actually it was probably a good thing to let others effectively test a
new virus. The worst aspect of the vaccine roll out is the insistence of control from the
government and MoH. Vaccine roll out would have been much faster if it had been more localised
via trusted health advisors – GPs. Not only is this logistically more effective but would probably
have been more successful in addressing mis-information. The 2018 survey by the government
identified GPs as by far the most trusted advisor for health – yet ignored this for the roll out.

According to our PM today 5% of people with first doses don’t get the second. Another reason
why a locally trusted resource may well be the most effective method of ensuring people
complete the vaccination process.

Testing like vaccinations have been centralized. During times of infection large queues for testing
seem to go against the grain given the isolation strategy of a lockdown. Home test kits are cheap
and have been available for over a year. They are a good complimentary solution to a full test.

Given the actual infections per number of tests this is both logistically and economically more
effective. Rapid testing is also more effective for testing essential workers. The current process
expects a negative test within the last 7 days which permitted and unvaccinated truck driver to
travel to Palmerston North and then test positive. Rapid testing minimizes this risk, but for some
reason has been avoided as part of our strategy.

Home/Rapid testing is effectively used in the UK to re open schools.
Treatments have been slow to evolve but it would appear that experience over the last 18
months has enabled the world in part to reduce the death rate. New treatments have now been
tested and are available which will presumable reduce the death rate even further and reduce
hospital time.

Health Care Capacity has not increased given the projected number of deaths. One would have
thought with an initial projection of 80,000 deaths, emergency health care capacity would have
been planned and executed across New Zealand. It does not appear so and NZ is at the bottom
of the list globally in terms of ICU capacity. A quick glance at the MoH website shows the last
update for NZ ICU beds is 11th June – 2020. This does not inspire confidence.
What does this all mean?

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing but overall it would seem to me that the problem was
significantly over exaggerated from the get go and subsequent updates have been equally as
inaccurate. This has created unnecessary fear that many are now questioning the resulting
strategy.

The Team of 5 mil has fallen in behind the government, but any team requires trust both ways.
Trust has been missing. GPs should have been trusted to administer the vaccine which would
have been better informed and quicker. Trust should have been place in individuals to self test
which would have been way more effective in identifying and isolating infection and cost less in
time, resources and money.

What we should not trust are the predictions being made by the experts as they are notoriously
inaccurate and feed strategies and activity that fall woefully short of what is required to return
New Zealand to as close to a normal way of life as possible.

So my summary is that 18 months in, we need to use the knowledge we have gained to
understand how we can do things differently and how these 5 solutions can be combined to give
us freedom. Lockdowns are being eased in place of vaccinations, but if 5% don’t get the second
jab then our target needs to be higher than 90%. New Treatments are hard to define but it would
seem there is a lot of positivity in this regard. Hospital Care is surprisingly under planned given
the severity that was indicated at the outset. The people were scared but maybe not the
Government.

So that leaves us with testing. Of all of the options, the self and rapid test is probably the MOST
effective way of protection and prevention. So the government should empower us all to take
ownership of our own destiny. Effective and timely testing is the single most effective way of
moving forward not only because it clearly detects risk from what until now has been a hidden
enemy, but it also impacts positively on the other four options. The best option is to “go hard and
go early” to identify and flush out the enemy. The silence is so far deafening on any change to
testing yet it is clearly the best option. Will the people in control listen and give New Zealanders
the freedom to self test and manage their own walk to Freedom?

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