Biostatistics Professor Jon Deeks has criticised the Government’s mass Covid testing plan as a waste of “time and money”, highlighting that in some areas only one positive case has been found after 10,000 tests. Professor Deeks, a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Applied Health Research at Birmingham University, told the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus that there is “no evidence” to show mass testing works. He is quoted in the Telegraph:
“For this mass test, the Innova test, we have the Liverpool study and the University of Birmingham study, that’s a total of 78 cases where we know how well it detects (positive cases).
“That is absolutely outrageous that we are now testing the whole population based effectively on data from 78 people, which actually showed it doesn’t work very well…
“In the South West at the moment, I think we are down to 0.09% prevalence and that probably means we would be using 10,000 tests to find one case in the next few weeks.
“I don’t think that’s a good use of people’s time or money or public health capital to do that. There are far better things we could be doing.”
The APPG is chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who said: “[Mass testing] seems to be the panacea at the moment… [but] how reliable is it?”
Earlier this month, the Government promised twice-weekly Covid tests for everyone in England. Sky News had the story.
The Government says the offer is currently for England only and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make their own decisions.
A major marketing campaign encouraging people to take up the offer of twice-weekly lateral flow tests will also start in England this Friday…
The programme is effectively the long-delayed “Operation Moonshot” of 10 million Covid tests a day, costing an estimated £100 billion, promised by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last summer.
When he told the Commons it would start as early as December, MPs laughed, prompting Mr Hancock to brand them “nay-sayers” and telling them to “get with the programme”.
Now the Government says that alongside vaccination, regular Covid testing will be an essential part of easing lockdown restrictions and help quickly suppress the spread of variants.
The Telegraph report is worth reading in full.