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Scientists unleash a Bluetooth-powered ‘virtual virus’ to study COVID-19

One of the biggest challenges in managing the coronavirus pandemic has been a lack of real-time information about the virus’s spread.

While the goal of well-intentioned governments is clear — to mitigate spread with minimal economic and social impact — it is very difficult to decide on the best policy to achieve this.

In Australia, public health authorities have been consistent in encouraging testing for the virus. The major driver behind this has been the desire to find positive cases and track their contacts.

A by-product is information about how the virus is spreading in the general population, which can be used to inform decisions about measures such as mask-wearing and restrictions on movement.

However, at best, the information provided by testing individuals is partial, biased, and delayed. This makes it hard to make real-time decisions about when to impose restrictions, which are arguably the most important tool in the fight against the pandemic.