Do temperature checks achieve anything in limiting the transmission of COVID-19?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Jul 22, 2020, 01:08 PM(IST)

A woman checks the body temperature of a consumer at a mall in Polanco neighborhood, in Mexico City on July 8, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic Photograph:( AFP )

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This is a practice rooted in the SARS outbreak of 2000s

As the coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating globally, different countries are trying out various ways to identify and contain the virus and its carriers.

One of the most prominent techniques used by everyone ranging from airports to your next-door pharmacy is temperature checks. A man standing at the entry point will usually scan your temperature using a handheld device, pointing it at your forehead.

Based on the reading they receive and whether it qualifies are “not-corona”, they will let you enter, or simply ask you to leave.

But do these temperature checks achieve anything? The answer is unfortunately a scathing no.

Firstly, the biggest issue with COVID-19 is its unpredictability and the amount of information that scientists currently don’t have. For instance, earlier it was established the virus only spreads through person-to-person contact. But a recent research, which forced the WHO to change their stance claimed that the virus is actually airborne, implying it can spread through air.

Also read: US ready to work with China if first to produce successful COVID-19 vaccine, says Trump

A new research now claims that this might be causing more harm than good. Reported by Popular Science, the executive Vice President of Scripps Research claimed that this practice is “of no value” and that “it should be abandoned”. Eric Topol also claimed that this practice is unable to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

"Unreliable"

This is a practice rooted in the SARS outbreak of 2000s. However, fever was a more reliable source of ascertaining infection in the case of SARS than it is for COVID-19. Over 86 per cent of SARS patients exhibited feverish symptoms.

SARS-CoV-2, on the other hand is very different from SARS, rendering the temperature checks useless. As suggested above, only half of the people who carry COVID-19 develop a fever. Additionally, the damage is done in terms of transmission way before temperature rises in patients.

Also read: Research indicates airborne coronavirus remains actively infectious

Research emanating from across the globe shows how youngsters sometimes don’t show any symptoms at all, while those who are simply not healthy enough may also not show symptoms.

Additionally, to filter out crowds based on fevers is absurd, given how it’s a common symptom for multiple ailments, or very simply could just be a fever.

This is more relevant for the US, for its flu season usually begins in the autumn, which is around the corner. This conflict of symptoms might keep out the non-carriers, but there’s no guarantee it will prevent those carrying the virus from venturing into public spaces that may become a breeding ground for the virus.

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