Now that Adelaide is in lock-down along with Sydney and Melbourne, I have found myself wondering about why people have to wait hours for a COVID-19 test, what risks this entails, and what could be done about it.

Over the last two days I have heard about people having to wait for up to eight hours in line to get a COVID-19 test. This is an incredible waste of time, puts people under even more stress, puts them in a less than ideal environment while they might be feeling unwell, and gives people a reason to decide to not get a test today.

On top of all of this, it also results in people needing to find public toilets, snacks, and beverages while they are waiting for hours in line. To me, this sounds like we are creating potential new exposure sites everywhere that people encounter each other while waiting in line for their COVID-19 test. This is an unnecessary risk.

We are a technologically literate and sophisticated country, and we have the resources to fund and create solutions, so here is my suggestion. Please let me know if you think this would work, or not, and why we haven’t already done something like this.

Hypothetical case:

Erin wakes up and checks today’s list of new exposure sites. Oops, better go and get a COVID-19 test. Erin opens the app and presses the “I need a COVID-19 test button.”

The app guides Erin through a series of questions: Where are you? How can you get to a test site (car or walk)? What time of day would you ideally like your test (early morning, morning, afternoon, early evening, late evening)?

The app now calculates the nearest test site and most appropriate time, taking current data on demand and resources into consideration.

The app suggests a couple of times and locations for the test for Erin to choose between.

Erin selects the time and location that suits.

The app warns Erin that there can be delays, and that the system will provide updates.

One hour before the confirmed time, the app lets Erin know the revised time (based on demand and resources) and asks Erin to confirm that this is still suitable.

Erin leaves home in time to wait in a short line that entails less risks of creating new exposure sites.

When Erin’s test is completed, the system gets more data about how the system is working, making the system a bit better when the next person opens the app to arrange a COVID-19 test.

We are eighteen months into the pandemic, and we are still letting people wait in lines for up to eight hours for a test. This strikes me as bad public health and poor use of available technology.

Could my idea work, and why don’t we have something like it already?

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