The US is performing below the average number of tests administered by the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, according to the numbers the group released Tuesday.
The US, the country with the most confirmed cases in the world, has performed 16.4 tests per 1,000 people, according to the report. By comparison, OECD members performed an average of 23.1 tests per 1,000 people. Spain, the country with the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, has performed an average of 22.3 per 1,000 people. Italy, which has the third-highest number of cases has performed nearly twice as many tests as the US, at 29.7 per 1,000 people.
The US has performed more tests than some of the other countries with large outbreaks. France has only performed 9.1 tests per 1,000 people, according to the report. The UK has done on average 9.9 tests per 1,000 people. Mexico has done less than 1 test per 1,000 people and is at the bottom of the testing list. Iceland, by contrast, has tested the most with 135 tests per 1,000 people.
There are caveats with these numbers, the OECD says.
The report notes that there is a limit to the international comparability of all testing figures. There are differences in the way countries report totals and how frequently governments release data. The OCED report also relies on Our World In Data, data that the OECD considers the most reliable in the fast-moving context of the pandemic, but the data only includes PCR tests. PCR tests are used by scientists to diagnose an active case of Covid-19. The report does not include serological tests, the tests scientists use to detect if someone has had a prior infection.
Testing is key to all governments’ strategies to determine when it will be safe to allow people to end physical distancing in the absence of a vaccine.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that the US has done more tests than anyone else in the world.
Last Tuesday, he told the White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing: “More than everybody else, every other country combined.” But none of the OECD testing reports have shown that to be true.