As it works to get more gunshots across the country, the UK government announced it would make routine and rapid COVID-19 testing available to everyone in England.
The plan includes two tests a week starting April 9, with results expected at home within 30 minutes, regardless of whether a person is showing symptoms. The plan is part of the country’s roadmap to remove the widest blockages by the end of June, depending on the continued delivery of vaccines and lower levels of infections and hospitalizations.
The announcement also comes as the country considers the implementation of COVID-19 passports as a requirement to enter large public gatherings, such as football matches and concerts, according to Associated Press. Passport information would include the status of the test and whether the holder received the vaccine or whether they recovered after a coronavirus infection in the previous six months.
About one in three people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms and as we reopen society and resume parts of life that we have all lost so much, regular rapid testing will be essential to help us quickly detect positive and we hear every blast, Matt Hancock, secretary for health and social care, told a government release.
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However, the accuracy of lateral flow diagnostic tests has been questioned.
One last Cochrane Review found that rapid, point-of-care tests, including antigen diagnosis, can vary in sensitivity over time and potentially be more accurate during the first few days of an infection, while viral loads are higher.
Because of this variability, the tests could be useful as a way to confirm active cases when molecular laboratory tests are not available, according to the researchers, but they said they could find virtually no evidence confirming their effectiveness in screening a large number of people on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, across 64 studies involving more than 24,000 samples, antigen tests accurately identified only 58% of hidden COVID-19 infections among people who showed no symptoms.
The effectiveness of mass screening using these tests will only be determined through outcome studies, such as grouped community trials, the researchers write.
RELATED: Current COVID-19 antibody tests are not accurate enough for mass screening, say Oxford researchers
In addition, while the UK government said its tests had a rate of less than one false positive result out of every 1,000 conducted, when multiplied twice a week across the Englands population of more than 55 million people , incorrect readings can still be counted in the tens of thousands
“Mass testing is a scandalous waste of money,” said Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at the University of Newcastle. told the BBC. “When the coronavirus prevalence rate drops as low as at the moment, then an increasing percentage of cases are likely to be false positives, which means that cases and contacts will be unnecessarily isolated.”
The UK has previously spent more than $ 800 million, or more than $ 1.1 billion, to help set up rapid testing programs capable of controlling millions of people a day, including through a pilot project in the city of Liverpool, but the tests themselves can give high levels of erroneous results, according to a January report by the Guardian.
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This money includes the purchase of more than 380 million fast side flow tests from Innova Medical Group. A analysis by researchers at Oxford University found that those tests were more accurate depending on who used them.
When testing was performed by laboratory specialists, an average of 79.2% of positive cases were correctly identified, but that number fell when the tests were used by health care workers in real-world settings and among people who wipe themselves at home, up to 73% and 57.5%, respectively.
Writing in British Medical Journal, contributor Ingrid Torjesen said side flow tests like Innovas should be used under strict parameters including people who can not work from home, such as healthcare providers, teachers and students. The tests should not be used to clean up people who have been exposed to a confirmed case or to shorten the amount of time spent in quarantine unless used in conjunction with a standard PCR gold diagnostic, Torjesen said.
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