Here's a COVID-19 thought experiment...Maybe the 'Holy Grail' of COVID-19 testing is a free, reusable (less cost and a lot less medical waste landfill) Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) (or something else) with an accuracy of 90%+ for 'self-testing' ('voluntary compliance', volunteering, Citizen science et al).
The following SciFi test kit system could be rapidly prototyped with the right team and funding and sold by a theoretical manufacturer at cost price to the Government for distribution to their network (including pharmacies):
Disposable Swab->Swab->RNA 'biometric' sensor/'biosensor' (needs more research)->Raspberry Pi Pico ($4) with software, using Micropython programming language and blockchaining the test event (time:date stamped-can't be modified) ->USB->smartphone->smartphone app, that could operate the test and send data collected/receive test result data via Medicare and myGov. The cool thing is, it would be possible to program in new 'virus signatures' as required in a cloud database eg.mongoDB 'Atlas' with AWS/Google Cloud/Microsoft Azure hosting for pattern recognition on the RNA biosensor which would future proof the test kit - a bit like virus scanning software on a PC updating 'virus signatures' for newly discovered viruses - but done in the cloud to reduce the data and data processing needed on a smartphone which may only have low spare storage, slow storage, low RAM, a slow CPU and wouldn't involve virus signature updates. Furthermore, the sensitivity of the RNA biosensor could be improved over time with firmware updates (with a small data footprint) delivered via the smartphone app to the RP Pico. Maybe the RNA biosensor could be standardised for more reliable dataset comparison? The database would be a treasure trove of data for virologists' and epidemiologists' research. Another bonus is new COVID-19 variants or even other viruses could be detected early which could provide intel for researchers and GPs via telehealth - but - I don't want a 'Gattaca' scenario though it seems at times we're not far from it! Geek out - and yes, the tests could be faked like in the movie but why would you need to fake it in a real-life situation unless you were desperate to get back to work and infect other people?
The following test algorithm could be used which involves a lot of testing for a rich data set and hopefully not too annoying for the patient:
If symptomatic and test negative, test again. If second test is positive, self-isolate. If negative, then maybe you've got a different virus which could be picked up by the virus scan in the cloud - may not need to self-isolate. Or, it could be symptoms of a different medical condition - not even a virus! If positive twice, self-isolation for 7 days.
A patient could test again after 7 days, if positive twice, self-isolate for 2 more days and test again. If negative and positive, keep self-isolating. Could keep testing every 2 days, twice per day, until the result was negative 2 tests on the same day, 2 days apart THEN...freedom?
If the tech is too complicated for some people, particularly the older generation, then it's RAT time, when they become widely available.
If you're asymptomatic but exposed to a 'close contact' who is infected with COVID-19, a definition that seems to be updated on a regular basis and falls within a very specific scenario of 4 hours in a house, health or aged care setting, then use a RAT according to current wisdom. I mean, surely 5 minutes would be long enough to catch it in almost any indoor setting but imagine all the RAT packs for that definition - or use one testing kit as proposed! And besides, there aren't enough RATs available for the 5 minute definition though apparently there will be many more available in the coming weeks - just disposable ones with variable sensitivities (see REFERENCES) - another data comparison nightmare and supports the argument for a standardised RNA biosensor which could provide increasing sensitivity for accurate data collection over time (as previoiusly mentioned) for the researchers so we have an increasingly more accurate picture of the virus and where we are and need to be going.
As an aside, I never understood why we only sign in to businesses and not sign out? Still might be handy for 'close contact' determination but contact tracing may soon be a thing of the past anyway. We're not even near peaking Omicron yet - could be a month, a couple of months, or even longer...many new cases to come and how confusing will that be for 'close contact' rules. Literally, a ?quarter of the economy could shut down :(
On a positive note, I'm predicting Omicron will be the last dominant variant of COVID-19...it will literally run out of hosts and our backup T-cell response may help protect many people who were only double-vaxxed or not able to access any vaccines (or controversially worse, didn't want them) for protection from Omicron and future possibly weaker variants too - but I may be wrong. If you can access the third vaccine booster, as a 'Citizen scientist', problem solver and futurist, I would highly recommend getting it as it might provide around 97% protection/immunity to Omicron variant after 2 weeks following the booster (but there probably isn't enough data yet to say with high confidence). Muchos loco times we live in!
Any comments welcome!