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The scientists behind the government’s Moonshot test plans have jumped to the defense of lateral flow coronavirus tests, even after their own study found they were less than 50% reliable at detecting the virus.
The experts who devised the pilot project in Liverpool say the rapid tests are “very useful” and a “good alternative” to swab tests that take much longer to process.
Lateral flow devices, or LFDs, have been touted as a way to get Britain back to normal faster because they are cheap and give results in 30 minutes.
Professor Tim Peto a medicine expert at the University of Oxford
Professor Tim Peto, a medical expert at the University of Oxford, defended the tests today as a way to “allow” someone to visit a nursing home or go to school with a higher level of certainty that they are not spreading the disease. virus.
‘If you are a responsible person and you don’t want to infect your mother if she has a cough, in that setting where you are ready to go, an LFD will give you sensible evidence that will tell you if you are likely to infect someone if you leave,’ he said .
Professor Iain Buchan, who has been monitoring the deployment of the tests in Liverpool, said they were not useful for mass testing, but could be used in a ‘targeted’ way, such as freeing key workers from isolation.
More than a million NHS workers are already taking LFD twice a week to check for the virus.
And today it was confirmed that nursing home staff in England will receive two LFDs a week in addition to regular internal testing.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed today that 116 councils had signed up to conduct mass testing, offering residents swabs to screen for asymptomatic infections, and said they were waiting for others to agree.
The researchers’ comments come just a day after the UK medical device regulator MHRA said that NHS Test and Trace could allow people to use the tests at home, but negative results should not be used to that people stop isolating themselves.
Professor Peto also doubled-down on claims that LFDs may be more effective
Professor Peto also doubled down on claims that LFDs may be more effective, arguing that they can help stop the spread of the virus faster than PCRs because they provide a much faster diagnosis.
He added that LFDs have the potential to become “a good alternative” or even “better” than the gold standard tests.
More tests have been done to establish whether they are better at detecting the virus in those with high viral loads and more likely to spread the infection.
Professor Louise Kenny, Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool School of Health and Life Sciences, cautioned that there was no “magic bullet” test with a 100 percent success rate.
“We don’t have a magic bullet, but what we do have is a very useful public intervention here,” he said. “We have academics who are convinced of the usefulness of this invention.”
Liverpool launched a massive Covid-19 testing pilot program on November 6 in an attempt to reduce cases in the city.
More than 100,000 people out of a population of 500,000 went for an LFD test for the virus.
Despite concerns about the accuracy of the tests, health officials have put forward plans for nursing home staff to receive LFD twice a week, so that they are available to those who work at all levels in addition to testing for PCR.
The launch is being supported by a £ 149 million grant after care providers raised concerns about additional pressures with the use of tests and the possibility of safe visits.
The National Care Forum, which represents non-profit providers, has previously said that the Government Infection Control Fund (ICF) was not enough to cover the virus-related costs of nursing homes. seniors.
It will be necessary to reserve a room to carry out the tests, along with a second where the staff waits half an hour to receive the results.
Announcing the largest deployment of LFDs today after 116 local authorities signed up for the mass testing, Hancock said: “Today I am posting an evaluation of the Liverpool community testing project that shows how effective it can be.
“I urge anyone who has the opportunity to participate to protect their local area.
‘And at the same time, we are boosting rapid testing in nursing homes with an additional £ 149 million to support that effort.
“So everyone who works in nursing homes in England will receive two rapid tests a week, in addition to their weekly PCR tests.”
Yesterday, the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the tests for use at home, but with strict conditions.
The UK regulator has green-lit Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs), which give results in 30 minutes, for the public to use at home.
The MHRA is said to be “ willing to emphasize that the devices can be used only to ‘find’ cases of Covid-19 infections, so that people who did not know they had the virus can isolate themselves. ”
“They should not be used to ‘allow’ people to make decisions in life,” they added.