How to Detect the Early Sign of a Next Wave of COVID-19
The official number of confirmed cases is a delayed indicator for the present epidemic. A real-time picture for local transmission is needed. It is people with mild symptoms who are driving the transmission in public because severe patients have little energy to wander outside.
If it is inconvenient for people to get themselves tested at hospital, then how about providing self-collection kits at public places for them?
A simple plan is to put two boxes at a public place. One is full of self-collection kits and the other is empty for samples drop-off.
After coughing or sneezing, people go to the nearest self-collection kits and collect samples either from their masks or directly from their throat and nose. The samples are then put into the drop-off box. An assistant on the spot would be helpful in assisting people and in taking care of the kits and samples.
If PCR-testing resources are scarce, the samples from one place can be pooled into a single sample. If plentiful, every sample should be tested and an active approach may be implemented. Design a phone app which can connect the phone number with a self-collection kit anonymously. If a user tests positive, then the app informs the user about what to do.
The testing results would serve as an early-warning system. The higher rate of positive samples, the more likely a next wave of outbreak will occur. Based on the positive rate and the places where positive samples are collected, decisions can be made about whether restrictions should be reintroduced or about where preparedness should be made to prevent the further spread.
It is likely that the more privacy we respect, the more likely people are to offer their samples.