The study found screening detects fewer than half of those infected. Photo: Sky News
NEW YORK: Screening travelers for COVID-19 will detect the virus in fewer than half of those infected, a new study suggests.
Governments around the world have introduced the screening, including taking temperatures and health questionnaires, in an attempt to detect anybody with the virus as they enter or leave a country.
But a team of scientists who previously looked at screening for Ebola, SARS, and MERS in 2015 has found the nature of COVID-19 means screening is not very effective.
One of the authors, Dr Adam Kucharski, infectious disease epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Sky News: “If you have a lot of people who travel in the incubation period they probably won’t have developed symptoms so won’t be picked up by screening.
He explained that the team built on their previous study and developed a virtual screening process to look at how many infected people would be detected.
Dr Kucharski added: “If you’re relying solely on screening to detect those with COVID-19, it won’t happen.
“There needs to be secondary testing and information given to passengers on what to do if they develop symptoms or find out they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19”.
The study suggests there should be two successive fever screening stations at airports, ports or anywhere screening is being carried out to increase reliability.
It said as risk factors become better known, questionnaires could be refined to identify more potential cases.
A rapid test would be beneficial, with the authors saying at least one SARS test claimed to take less than an hour, although they acknowledged this could be expensive.
He added that for those who are well, wearing a face mask will not help and may make people touch their faces even more.
Masks will have slightly more effective for those who are ill, to help prevent spreading, but he said self-isolating is better than wearing a face mask.
(with inputs from Agencies)