Published in El Pais, 29 August 2020.
The blood bank in the Netherlands has found that there are about 21 times more COVID-19 infections than confirmed. How do they know this? Every month, thousands of people donate blood which is analyzed for COVID-19 antibodies. After a correction, it has been estimated that 6.5% of the population has been infected, but only 0.3% of the population was detected at the time.
These positive people were asked to fill out a questionnaire where 38% mentioned they had mild or no symptoms. However, only 1.3% were diagnosed positive at the time of infection. When asked to fill out a self-diagnostic test as if it were at the time of symptoms, 52% became suspicious. This means that if they did this questionnaire at the very time with the laboratory test, there was the possibility to detect cases faster and thus control the epidemic better.
How can this serve Bolivia? First it is highly likely that Bolivia has more than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 and not just the 110 thousand that have been confirmed. They are also quite likely to be more if we consider the lack of evidence in many cities. This means that there are still almost 8 million people who have not been infected and worth protecting.
The solution is perhaps easier than we think. The reproduction rate of COVID-19 is estimated at 2.8. But we reduce it because only 80% are susceptible. If people do the self-diagnosis questionnaire every day and self-quarantine if it comes out positive, we could reduce this rate by more than 50%. Adding up you reach a rate of 1.1. If we include the cancellation of large events, masks, and estrangement, we will surely be below 1, which causes the virus to disappear while we can return to work and live in a more or less normal way.
It may not make much sense to lock you in your house if you only have a dry cough or a little fever, but this could help control the epidemic at a time when the economy can no longer be stopped with total quarantine.