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As COVID-19 infections begin to rise again, a novel testing strategy proposed by researchers at the University of Oxford at the start of the pandemic has become urgent once again.

Healthcare worker wearing full PPE collects a sample at a coronavirus mobile testing unit

The strategy aims to bring the virus’s reproduction number (‘R’) down to below 1, by concentrating testing resources on particular groups in the population that are most likely to spread the infection to others, rather than testing the general population at random.

‘Governments around the world are looking for a testing strategy for COVID-19. This strategy will inevitably be constrained by our testing capacity: in short, every person in the world cannot be tested every day,’ says co-author Dr Daniel Susskind, Fellow of Economics at Balliol College, Oxford. ‘Given these constraints, which still bind us many months into this crisis, we need to focus again on a testing strategy that is workable, efficient and affordable for the government.’

The proposed strategy is predicated on the understanding that not everyone is equally likely to spread COVID-19. An individual’s likelihood of infecting others will depend on their occupation, geography, and other behaviours when not isolated.

The full story is available on the University of Oxford website