Relationship of Test Positivity Rates with COVID-19 Epidemic Dynamics

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 27;18(9):4655. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094655.


Detection and isolation of infected people are believed to play an important role in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries conduct large-scale screenings for testing, whereas others test mainly people with high prior probability of infection such as showing severe symptoms and/or having an epidemiological link with a known or suspected case or cluster of cases. However, what a good testing strategy is and whether the difference in testing strategy shows a meaningful, measurable impact on the COVID-19 epidemic remain unknown. Here, we showed that patterns of association between effective reproduction number (Rt) and test positivity rate can illuminate differences in testing situation among different areas, using global and local data from Japan. This association can also evaluate the adequacy of current testing systems and what information is captured in COVID-19 surveillance. The differences in testing systems alone cannot predict the results of epidemic containment efforts. Furthermore, monitoring test positivity rates and severe case proportions among the nonelderly can predict imminent case count increases. Monitoring test positivity rates in conjunction with the concurrent Rt could be useful to assess and strengthen public health management and testing systems and deepen understanding of COVID-19 epidemic dynamics.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; effective reproduction number; epidemics; laboratory diagnosis; outbreaks; pandemic; surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Basic Reproduction Number
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2