Early in the pandemic, the World Health Organization emphasized testing in controlling the pandemic. The phrase, uttered by the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, and reverberated around the world. The countries that have best faced the pandemic have had mass testing strategies. After five months, Brazil's testing capacity is still in its infancy.
But the recent inauguration of a new testing unit at Fiocruz (Fundação Oswaldo Cruz) in Rio de Janeiro, with a processing capacity of up to 15,000 RT-PCR exams per day, and the expectation of opening another unit on Monday ( 24), in the metropolitan region of Fortaleza (CE), with a capacity of 10,000 daily samples, will finally elevate the country to the level of testing in countries such as the United States and England.
RT-PCR tests, the gold standard method for diagnosing the virus in the individual and isolating positive cases, represent 42% (5.78 million) of the total tests performed in the country, according to data from the Ministry of Health. The other 58% (almost 8 million) are rapid tests, or serological tests, which identify people who have already had contact with the virus and, therefore, must be done from the 10th day of contagion.
Counting the two types of diagnoses, the rate of tests per thousand inhabitants in Brazil is 64, still far off the rates of countries like Germany (102), Canada (109), and the United States (171). But if we consider only the RT-PCR tests, our rate is around 27. A study by the Solidarity Research Network found an even lower rate: 13 tests per thousand inhabitants.
The low number of tests in the country also drives the high rate of positivity, of 33.2%. Although other countries, such as Argentina (43.7%) and Bolivia (44.6%) have higher rates, we are still very far from the ideal advocated by WHO, of 5%. In the United States, the only country ahead of Brazil in the number of cases and deaths, this positivity rate is 8.2%.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon