Twice-weekly Covid tests slammed as 'beyond reckless' by scientists amid fears false negatives will spark spread
TWICE-weekly Covid tests have been branded "beyond reckless" over fears false negatives will lead to people letting their guard down.
The rapid tests – which can be taken at home and give results in just 30 minutes -will be available to every adult twice a week from this Friday.
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The government says people will be able to collect or order batches of the free NHS tests as part of moves to reclaim a more normal way of life.
And Boris Johnson has urged Brits to get and use theirs "even if you don't feel ill."
The lateral flow tests are less accurate than the PCR tests given to those with Covid symptoms.
However, they are far more convenient as they do not have to be processed in a lab and the results are known so quickly.
They have been hailed a game changer in the fight against the pandemic, but not everyone is convinced by twice-a-week testing.
Jon Deeks, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham and one of the authors of last month's review on rapid tests, described the move as “beyond reckless”.
He said there was “very little data supporting the sensitivity of the test in people without symptoms”.
A Liverpool pilot scheme showed that it picked up less than half of 70 known coronavirus cases.
And Prof Deeks added another study detected only three per cent, reports The Times.
He said: “The argument the government has put is that the ones that it detects are the ones who are infectious but the evidence behind this is very weak, and there is a lot of evidence that the test misses many.”
There was a fear, he pointed out“that it will stop people getting a PCR test when they have symptoms if they have a negative [lateral flow] test, or increase disinhibition so higher risks of exposure happen”.
Susan Michie, a UCL professor of health psychology, said she was also concerned people would be wrongly reassured by a negative test.
HOW TO GET A RAPID TEST
More than 100,000 businesses in England have registered their interest to provide rapid tests to their employees.
The offer of free testing is being expanded to companies with over 10 workers where on-site testing is impossible.
Here's how to get your hands on a rapid test:
- A home ordering service, which allows people to order lateral flow tests online to be delivered to their home
- Workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home
- Community testing, offered by all local authorities
- Collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
- Testing on-site at schools and colleges
She said: “This problem is likely to be exacerbated by negative results which are not an accurate indicator of not having coronavirus.”
However, health minister Edward Argar stood by the “highly accurate” lateral flow tests.
He told Sky News: “The more people taking these tests the better because this is about trying to get people back to work, getting our society reopened, which we all want as swiftly and safely as it can be done.
"These simple tests are a key part of doing that.”
He pointed to Test and Trace analysis showing that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests, less than one gave a false positive result.
So far the rapid kits have been mainly aimed at office staff and those who have to leave their homes to work, alongside the NHS and schools.
But everyone will soon be able to order kits at home, get them through their workplaces, at schools, or via the network of testing centres which has been set up across the country.
A pharmacy collect service will also be launched. The kits will be available from Friday onwards with a fresh marketing campaign urging people to take part.
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