It is well-known that group testing is an efficient strategy to screen for the presence of a virus. It consists of pooling n individual samples with a single test using RT-PCR. If no individual in the group is infected, the group test is negative. Thus, a single test may reveal this crucial information. We show how group testing can be optimised in three applications to multiply the power of tests against Covid-19: Estimating virus prevalence to measure the evolution of the pandemic, bringing negative groups back to work to exit the current lockdown, and testing for individual infectious status to treat sick people. For an infection level around 2%, group testing could multiply the power of testing by a factor of 20. The implementation of this strategy in the short run requires limited investments and could bypass the current immense shortage of testing capacity.
Covid Economics, vol. 1, n. 2, April 2020, pp. 32–42