To support a smooth lifting of restrictions to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, the Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Task Force has developed a "Proactive Mitigation Programme" based on a voluntary diagnostic test accessible to the population, including cross-border workers.
Large scale testing aims to avoid a second wave of infections following exit measures and the risk of a new lockdown. The new strategy also aims at shortening the lockdown period, thus keeping psychological, economic and social problems to a minimum.
"Organising the population into contingents of 50.000 to 100.000 individuals and testing members of these contingents on a voluntary basis will allow us to identify and isolate people that carry the virus and trace back their contacts", explains Prof. Paul Wilmes, the University's representative within the COVID-19 Task Force and its deputy spokesperson. "This is particularly important as 80% of the virus carriers show no symptoms and spread the virus without even knowing. Through our plan, we are able to systematically break infection chains and thereby avoid epidemic spread. However, for our plan to work many people need to get tested. We therefore appeal to the public to get tested once it is their turn."
Monitoring the spreading of the virus within the population is also crucial. LCSB researchers around Prof. Rudi Balling, Dr. Alexander Skupin and Prof. Jorge Gonçalves will use the data to make projections how the epidemic evolves and to build computational models to test different scenarios. "The projections we make on the basis of the test results help policymakers decide on the exit strategy and to adjust measures to the situation at any time. Important indicators include, for example, the ability to trace contacts and the capacity of the health system," explains Prof. Rudi Balling, Director of the LCSB.
While testing is voluntary and anonymous, the number of tested individuals is paramount for the calculation to work. The more people participate, the more protection this will entail for the entire population.
17 testing stations will open across the country to test residents and cross-border workers. Further information of the composition of the contingents, timing of the tests for each contingent and the logistics at these drive-in stations will be communicated by the government. The SARS-CoV-2 qPCR test will assess if a person currently carries the infection. A test to identify antibodies in the blood following a previous infection could be included at a later stage.
The programme is coordinated under the leadership of the Luxembourg Institute of Health, and organised with researchers of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and in close collaboration with the Ministry for Higher Education and Research (MESR) and the Ministry of Health.