A new article by Institute for Advanced Studies and London School of Economics and Political Science has been published in BMC Public Health
Background In October 2020, amidst the second COVID-19 epidemic wave and before the second-national lock‑ down, Austria introduced a policy of population-wide point-of-care lateral fow antigen testing (POC-LFT). This study explores the impact of this policy by quantifying the association between trends in POC-LFT-activity with trends in PCR-positivity (as a proxy for symptomatic infection), hospitalisations and deaths related to COVID-19 between Octo‑ ber 22 and December 06, 2020.
Methods We stratifed 94 Austrian districts according to POC-LFT-activity (number of POC-LFTs performed per 100,000 inhabitants over the study period), into three population cohorts: (i) high(N=24), (ii) medium(N=45) and (iii) low(N=25). Across the cohorts we a) compared trends in POC-LFT-activity with PCR-positivity, hospital admissions and deaths related to COVD-19; b) compared the epidemic growth rate before and after the epidemic peak; and c) calculated the Pearson correlation coefcients between PCR-positivity with COVID-19 hospitalisations and with COVID -19 related deaths.
Results The trend in POC-LFT activity was similar to PCR-positivity and hospitalisations trends across high, medium and low POC-LFT activity cohorts, with association with deaths only present in cohorts with high POC-LFT activity. Compared to the low POC-LFT-activity cohort, the high-activity cohort had steeper pre-peak daily increase in PCRpositivity (2.24 more cases per day, per district and per 100,000 inhabitants; 95% CI: 2.0–2.7; p<0.001) and hospitalisa‑ tions (0.10; 95% CI: 0.02, 0.18; p=0.014), and 6 days earlier peak of PCR-positivity. The high-activity cohort also had steeper daily reduction in the post-peak trend in PCR-positivity (-3.6; 95% CI: -4.8, -2.3; p<0.001) and hospitalisations (-0.2; 95% CI: -0.32, -0.08; p=0.001). PCR-positivity was positively correlated to both hospitalisations and deaths, but with lags of 6 and 14 days respectively.
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