'Test, test, test': WHO chief decries lack of coronavirus testing

Though the increase in containment measures, such as social distancing, around the world is a positive sign, it is not enough to "extinguish the [coronavirus] pandemic," and countries must focus on testing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in a media briefing March 16.

Dr. Tedros noted widespread efforts to prevent the virus' spread, including closing schools, restaurants, bars and theaters, as well as canceling sports events, but he emphasized the importance of testing.

"The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives, is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate," said Dr. Tedros. "Once again, our message is: test, test, test."

The WHO has sent 1.5 million tests to 120 countries and is working with private companies to make more tests available.

"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded," said Dr. Tedros. "We cannot stop this pandemic if we don't know who is infected."

Dr. Tedros said the Coronavirus Solidarity Fund, launched by the WHO and partners on March 13, has raised $19 million from 110,000 people. The money will be used to buy diagnostic tests, supplies for health workers and support research and development.

Lack of testing has hampered the U.S. response to the pandemic, according to The New York Times. An internet tracker that gathers information from state health departments, local news reports and live news conferences, shows that the U.S. is lagging far behind other countries where testing data is available. The tracker estimates about 125 people per million having been tested in the country so far.

Vice President Mike Pence said more than 2,000 labs should have had high-speed testing capability as of March 16.
 
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