ROME - In Italy, the Veneto region has initiated mass screening of citizens to find asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus. The action follows mass screening in a single town that has had no new cases since March 13.
Veneto Governor Luca Zaia has decided to launch large-scale testing of the entire population of the northeast Italian region. That includes people being tested in their cars with “drive through swabs” and receiving results via email within hours.
That method, which has been used in South Korea, also minimizes contact with health care operators.
The aim is to identify all those who are carrying COVID-19 but show no symptoms.
Zaia said that the belief is that every asymptomatic positive person identified is one less person who will be infecting others in the territory.
The objective is to carry out 20,000 tests a day for the next three weeks in the region that includes the cities of Venice and Verona.
The project has gotten very little resistance from the public. It has been entrusted to professor Andrea Crisanti, a well-known virologist from the University of Padua.
Professor Crisanti said epidemics must be fought on three fronts: with hospitalization and intensive care, with discipline at home limiting all social contacts and with active surveillance, that is, identifying all those who are unaware they can transmit a disease.
Professor Crisanti obtained significant results when his team tested the entire population of the only locked down area in Veneto at the start of the outbreak. When the 3,300 members of the community of Vo’ Euganeo were tested at the end of February, the results revealed that 3 percent had coronavirus. The professor said that figure was enormous, but that only 40 percent of those tested had symptoms.
He said Vo’ Euganeo demonstrated that testing everybody identifies healthy carriers and if healthy carriers are eliminated, transmission of the virus decreases ten-fold.
Professor Crisanti says he cannot stress enough how important it is to test all those in the geographical and social context where carriers of COVID-19 have been detected. Italy went on lockdown in early March and to date, more than 6,000 deaths have been reported there.