PCR Test

Nose Bleeds, Choking, Fainting, Death: The Hundreds of Injuries Brits Have Reported From Covid Tests

Hundreds of Britons reported injuries from getting tested for Covid, official data show. MailOnline has the story.

Dozens say they’ve fainted or choked while swabbing, while others have complained about nose bleeds and hot flashes. Drug regulators tasked with policing the safety of virus tests have logged over 3,000 reports of harm throughout the pandemic.

The figures, obtained by MailOnline through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, are only a “snapshot”, however. Thousands more people will have hurt themselves while using lateral flows or taking swabs because not everyone reports their experiences, experts say. And the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the body in charge of safety monitoring, also insist the swabs won’t have definitely been to blame in the few cases that have been logged.

In a similar fashion to how side effects from the Covid vaccines are tracked, officials ask everyone to record any incidents that occur from getting tested. The MHRA encourages people to report any safety concerns with the tests and give feedback, such as if it is damaged or components are missing. It then investigates any serious problems and logs them, to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

More than 500million tests have been conducted in the U.K. since the start of the Covid pandemic, with the now-axed scheme costing up to £2bn per month at the height of the Omicron wave.

At least 3,443 complaints were logged about Covid tests by April 7th, according to the MHRA data. Of these, 1,013 complaints were logged about lateral flow swabs. At least 177 said they suffered “minor” harm when using the tests, while between 39 and 69 reported “serious” harm. Uncertainty around the figures – collected monthly – are due to the watchdog not providing exact numbers when fewer than five people report a specific type of incident.

The vast majority of complaints did not give sufficient information about the harms caused by tests. But allergic reactions to components of the test and choking were the most common incidents reported.  Britons also complained of headaches, a bleeding nose, respiratory tract infections, sore throats, hot flushes, skin inflammation and swelling. Between one and four deaths were logged.

The MHRA said the reporting of an adverse testing incident in its database “does not necessarily mean the events described were caused by that medical device”. The agency added that it “could be due to unrelated patient/user factors”.

A spokesperson said: “The information we hold on our database is not a full picture of all the device-related incidents that happened during this period, it is just a snapshot. It’s not compulsory for healthcare professionals and members of the public to report incidents directly to MHRA, but we strongly encourage this.”

Meanwhile, 2,430 people made a complaint to the watchdog after taking a PCR test. Of these reports, at least 261 logged minor harms, while 78 reported serious harm. The harms reported included allergic reactions, choking and nose bleeding. Britons also said they suffered sore throats, loss of consciousness and “emotional changes” after taking PCR tests. A handful of cases of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties – and joint dislocation were also logged with the MHRA, along with sneezing and vomiting. And between three and 12 deaths were reported to the MHRA that members of the public linked with PCR tests.   

Worth reading in full.

Warnings of a Workplace Sickness “Free For All” as NHS Expands Covid Symptom List and Workers Advised to “Stay at Home” When Unwell

The Government’s scrapping of free Covid tests combined with an expansion to the NHS list of symptoms will trigger a “free for all” of staff absences, experts have warned. MailOnline has more.

The vast majority of employees in England are now unable to get any free swabs as part of Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.  

But health chiefs advise people to “stay at home” if they have any of the 12 newly-recognised symptoms, which can be “very similar” to ones brought on by colds or the flu.

It means, in the absence of a test, people suffering cold-like symptoms will be left to decide “whether or not they stay at home and for how long”, unions say.

Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the ISU, the union for borders, immigration and customs, warned that it is “inevitable” staff will be off work with mild symptoms if they are unable to confirm whether or not they have Covid.

Unions also fear the chaos will only drive transmission up, with Covid levels already at a pandemic high in England and one in 12 people thought to be currently infected.

Only the elderly, most vulnerable and health and social care workers can access tests for free. Tests are, however, available at high street retailers such as Boots for £2. 

England’s mass swabbing regime – thought to cost up to £2billion-a-month – was ditched under Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.

It marked one of the final steps on the route back to normal life, after mandatory self-isolation rules were scrapped in mid-February.

Workers who test positive no longer have to legally self-isolate, although they are still advised to “stay at home and avoid contact with other people”. The NHS also says that they should take “extra care” to avoid making contact with anyone at higher risk of the virus. 

NHS Covid advice also says: “You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.'”

Worth reading in full.

Germany’s ‘Professor Lockdown’ Christian Drosten Bids His Fans Farewell

We’re publishing a guest post by blogger “Eugyppius” about the welcome retirement of Germany’s ‘Professor Lockdown’, Christian Drosten – at least from his weekly podcast show. This post was originally published on Eugyppius’s Substack account, which you can subscribe to here.

On Tuesday March 29th, virologist and foremost German Corona astrologer Christian Drosten went on indefinite hiatus from Coronavirus Update, his noxious state media podcast. The show was introduced on February 26th 2020, with Drosten as its centre. He starred in about 80 of its 113 episodes; from September 2020, he began alternating appearances with virologist Sandra Ciesek. Lest the oracular pronouncements of these luminaries be lost to history, Norddeutscher Rundfunk lovingly transcribed their utterances into a downloadable 1446-page document. There is every reason to fear that, one day, this monstrosity will be issued in print for the Scientific Faithful as a boxed set.

I confess that I’ve only listened to about 20 episodes of this elaborate exercise in propaganda. I can’t imagine how anybody could handle more than that. Probably never before in history has there been a radio show so heavily promoted by the national media, that is simultaneously so devoid of content. For in all the ponderous hours that I listened, I never heard Drosten say anything that fashion-forward Twitter accounts, media pundits, and Tomas Pueyo hadn’t already said a little bit earlier.

“I Have No More Tears”: Athletes in Despair Over Covid Quarantine Conditions at Beijing Winter Olympics

Event organisers of the Winter Olympics in China are facing a litany of complaints from athletes and countries on multiple fronts, especially over the COVID-19 isolation arrangements. The Guardian has more.

The Polish speed skater Natalia Maliszewska, who was forced to miss the 500m short track event on Saturday, revealed that she had faced fear and uncertainty in a Beijing isolation ward after testing positive for Covid.

“Since a week I have been living in fear and these changes in mood,” she said. “I cry until I have no more tears and make not only the people around me worry but myself too,” she said.

Those in an isolation ward are allowed out if they are free of symptoms and have two negative Covid tests 24 hours apart and Maliszewska was eventually released back to the Olympic village – before being told there had been a mistake.

“People got me out of my room at 3am,” she said. “This night was a horror, I slept in my clothes in my bed because I was afraid that at any moment someone would take me back to isolation. Then a message that unfortunately they were mistaken, that I am a threat, and should not have been released from isolation.

“I have to get back to the Olympic Village as soon as possible,” she added. “I can’t understand this anymore. I no longer believe in any tests, any Olympics. To me this is a big joke, I hope whoever is managing this has a lot of fun. My heart and my mind can’t take this anymore.”

More than 350 Games participants, including dozens of athletes, have tested positive upon arrival in the Chinese capital since January 23rd. Many are still in isolation, fearing their Games are over.

One of those is the Finnish ice hockey player Marko Anttila, whose team believes he is being kept in COVID-19 isolation for no reason. “From a medical perspective we know that a person like this is no longer infectious, no danger to the other team,” Finnish doctor Maarit Valtonen said. “These isolation decisions are not based on medicine or science, it’s more cultural and political decisions.”

The Finland head coach Jukka Jalonen said that the situation was affecting Anttila’s mental health. “We know that he’s fully healthy and that’s why we think that China, for some reason, won’t respect his human rights and that’s not a great situation,” he added.

The Russian biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsova also recently expressed her experiences of being in a quarantine hotel, posting on Instagram: “My stomach hurts, I’m very pale and I have huge black circles around my eyes. I want all this to end. I cry every day. I’m very tired.”

Vasnetsova posted a picture of what she said was “breakfast, lunch and dinner for five days already” – a tray with food including plain pasta, an orange sauce, a piece of meat on a bone, a few potatoes and no greens.

There are also general complaint about the food, with Germany’s coach Christian Schwaiger lamenting there was no hot food available for athletes: “The catering is extremely questionable, because really it’s not catering at all. I would have expected that the Olympic Committee is capable of providing hot meals. There are crisps, some nuts and chocolate and nothing else.”

The IOC said it was working with Beijing 2022 to address the issues, adding about the situation in the Covid hotels: “We feel for every athlete who cannot compete because of a COVID-19 infection. The protocols have been put in place to ensure safe Olympic Games for everyone.”

It’s for your safety so suck it up and stop complaining. Will it ever end?

Worth reading in full.

Two Years Later, Australia to Reopen to (Vaccinated) Tourists

After two years of borders shut tight in support of a doomed Zero Covid strategy, Australia is to welcome vaccinated tourists again by March, with the Government set to announce a reopening date as early as Monday. The Daily Mail has the story.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said allowing the return of vaccinated holidaymakers and business visitors was a “priority” and the Federal Government was “very close” to announcing the re-opening.  

“We are going through the process of preparing to open, and we will continue to talk to the health professionals, so as soon as they say yes, we will work with the states and territories and we will re-open our international borders to tourists,” she said.

A meeting of Cabinet’s National Security Committee on Monday will discuss the re-opening with a senior Government source reportedly confirming this would likely be within the next three weeks.

Vaccinated Australian citizens have been able to travel through the country’s international border since November 1st, while skilled migrants and foreign students were welcomed back in mid-December.

But with case numbers in Australia and abroad falling, focus is now shifting to non-essential travel such as holidays.

Covid cases and hospitalisations have been on a downward trend in recent weeks in almost all states except Western Australia. …

The first tourists will arrive by plane with the return of cruise ships likely to be much later as agreements with state governments that control ports need to be reached.

The Government also recently relaxed testing requirements for those flying into Australia with negative rapid antigen tests within the previous 24 hours now accepted along with PCR tests within the previous three days.

Ms Andrews said she could not guarantee the international border would not close again but the Government would make every effort to ensure it stayed open. 

“I was very keen to reopen our borders to the economic cohorts and also to international students on December 1st, but then we were hit with Omicron and that was delayed by two weeks,” she said.

“We are prepared to deal with what comes our way, and hopefully once the borders are open, they remain open.”

Now they just need to abandon their superstition in thinking vaccination makes a difference to infection rates, and of course drop all the testing…

Worth reading in full.

Half of People Deliberately Infected With Coronavirus Did Not Get Sick, Study Finds

Researchers inoculated (exposed) 36 people aged 18-29 with SARS-CoV-2 (Wuhan strain) via nasal droplets in the first COVID-19 challenge trial. The dose was similar to that found in a droplet of nasal fluid (which seems on the high side compared to natural exposure – who inhales globules of snot?). What did they find?

First of all, two of the 36 were found to have developed antibodies between screening and inoculation, so although they were inoculated anyway they were excluded from most of the analysis (they didn’t develop an infection, unsurprisingly). That left 34. Of those, 18 (53%) tested PCR positive, 17 (50%) of them with symptoms and one without. This means 16 (47%) never tested positive, despite being heavily exposed via lying on their back for 10 minutes with a blob of infected snot up their nose. Why did they not get sick? The researchers say investigations of these questions are ongoing.

This raises an interesting question of what constitutes infection, as clearly all participants had been thoroughly exposed but for 16 of them their immune system dealt with it in some way without resulting in symptoms or PCR positivity. The proportion infected of 53% is higher than the proportion of the population typically infected in an outbreak, such as on the Diamond Princess (where 19% tested PCR positive), but that may be owing to the level of exposure or other transmission dynamics.

Interestingly, there was no correlation between symptom severity and viral load, measured both using Ct values from a PCR test and viable virus. Note the most symptomatic point in the charts below (the highest on the y-axis) does not have anywhere close to the highest viral load. Significantly, the one asymptomatic infection had no lower viral load or less viable virus than the symptomatic infections (the point sitting on the x-axis). This suggests that infectious asymptomatic infection may be a real phenomenon (though note this study did not test to see whether participants actually infected others).

qPCR is a Ct-based measure of viral load. FFA is a measure of viral load from viable virus.

Government Scraps Covid Tests for Travel – But Only For the Vaccinated, Despite Government Data Showing the Vaccinated Have Higher Infection Rates

Holidaymakers who are double-vaccinated will no longer have to take any Covid tests for travel abroad, Boris Johnson has said. The Telegraph has more.

Speaking on a visit to a hospital, the Prime Minister said that day two lateral flow tests – which are currently required for fully vaccinated people entering the U.K. – would be ditched, saving a family of four around £120. The changes are expected to come into effect at 4am on February 11th.

It follows the ending of pre-departure and PCR tests for vaccinated travellers earlier this month and will be seen as a major filip for the travel industry in advance of the February half-term break. …

Holiday firms have already reported a surge in bookings for half term after the easing of restrictions and in anticipation of further lifting of curbs.

Speaking ahead of a Covid-O cabinet committee meeting on Monday, Mr Johnson said the country was moving through the Omicron wave and “things are starting to get better”.

“On travel, to show the country is open for business, we will see changes that people no longer have to take tests if they are double-vaccinated,” he said during his visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. …

Bookings to all holiday destinations have already jumped by 67% on average compared with December 2021, according to analysts Skyscanner.

Some international and long-haul beach and sun destinations are seeing demand return to levels above that in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the company.

The destinations with the fastest growing bookings are Maldives (up 125%), Mexico (up 110%), Costa Rica (72%), Colombia (48%), and Tanzania (39%).

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “When it happens, it will be a terrific boost for the travel sector and crucially for consumers. It will mean cheaper holidays and business trips and the end of the testing nightmare the industry has faced for nearly two years.”

But why only the double-vaccinated? Nobody now pretends that two vaccine doses provides any kind of protection against Omicron infection. The UKHSA estimates vaccine effectiveness of two doses against Omicron after six months of just 0-10%. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has stated that two doses are “not enough for Omicron… We have seen with a second dose very clearly that the first thing that we lost was the protection against infections”. Government data show infection rates in the double vaccinated have been considerably higher than in the unvaccinated across most age groups for some months. Where then is the evidence behind this continued restriction on the unvaccinated? It has no scientific basis, plainly is now solely to add coercive pressure to the unvaccinated to get the jab, and should be dropped.

Worth reading in full.

Government Suspends Access to Confirmatory PCR Tests for Asymptomatic LFT Positives, Raising Fears of False Positives Consigning Thousands to Their Homes

In what was presented as a relaxation of testing requirements, but is in fact a withdrawal of service, the UKHSA has announced that as of January 11th confirmatory PCR tests will no longer be recommended – and thus unavailable – for those who test positive on a lateral flow test (LFT) without symptoms. MailOnline has more.

Confirmatory PCR tests will no longer be needed for people testing positive for Covid on a lateral flow test, health chiefs confirmed today.

Previous guidance to back up positive rapid tests with more accurate lab results will be removed from January 11th.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the move amid sky-high case numbers across England. 

The move will free up capacity in laboratories for PCR tests for those who have Covid symptoms.

People who receive a positive result on a lateral flow device (LFD) will be required to self-isolate immediately for seven days, without requiring PCR confirmation. 

UKHSA said this is a temporary measure while Covid rates remain high across the UK.

Officials said that while levels of Covid are high, the “vast majority” of people with positive LFD results can be confident they have the virus.

They estimated the number of “false positives” results, where people without the virus get a positive LFD result, are as low as three in 10,000.

However with just under 1.5 million of LFD tests being conducted across the UK every day this could lead to thousands of people who don’t have Covid having to isolate. 

People who have Covid symptoms, such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or change in sense of taste and/or smell should still get a PCR test, UKHSA said. 

UKHSA has said that LFTs are 80% effective at finding people with high viral loads of Covid. However, Professor Sheila Bird, a former programme leader of the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge, said the 80% figure is based on data from the Alpha and Delta waves. “For transparency, results for these Omicron-era dual-testing evaluations should be placed in the public domain at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

Anecdotally I have been told by several people that they tested positive on LFT but then subsequently tested negative on PCR. Some of them were symptomatic. They said the person on the phone at Test and Trace told them this was very common at the moment as the LFTs were cross-reacting with other viruses and producing false positives that the PCR test then overruled.

If this is the case – and I have no reason to doubt it – then despite the change being billed as a solution to the staffing crisis it will only make it worse as thousands of people have to isolate from LFT false positives for which no confirmatory PCR test is available.

Since mass testing of the healthy has clearly failed to contain the virus – with new figures from the ONS today showing that an estimated 6% of the country was infected at the end of December – and with so many protected via natural immunity and vaccination, and with Omicron so mild, the Government needs to end all mass testing without delay and limit testing to contexts, such as hospitals and care homes, where it is needed to diagnose illness and protect the vulnerable.

Stop Press: The Mail is reporting that the Government is set to scrap all pre-departure Covid traveller tests today in a boost for the tourism industry, while the airline industry is demanding the Government goes a step further and axes all travel tests. Good news – but is it not time to accept that mass testing no longer serves any useful purpose (if it ever did) and we need to end this expensive drag on our economy and lives?

Covid Testing Rules to Be Relaxed to Address Staff Shortages

Covid testing rules are to be relaxed as part of efforts to shorten isolation periods and ease staffing shortages, according to the Telegraph.

Fears are growing that staff absences have become as big a problem as Covid itself, with bin collections delayedtrains cancelled and 17 hospitals in Greater Manchester announcing on Tuesday that they would be suspending some non-urgent surgery, with 15% of staff off sick.

Millions of people who test positive on lateral flow devices will be told they do not need to take follow-up PCR tests, which currently delay the official start of isolation for hundreds of thousands.

Health officials have drawn up plans to limit PCR tests to those with Covid symptoms, allowing people who are asymptomatic – around 40% of cases – to return to work more quickly. More than 1.2 million people are isolating after testing positive in the last week, with hundreds of thousands more waiting for tests or results.

The changes, expected on Wednesday, come as more than half a dozen NHS hospital trusts have declared critical incidents. Call handlers at North East Ambulance Service were told in an internal memo to advise heart attack patients to get a lift to hospital, rather than wait for a 999 response.

Meanwhile, offices remained largely empty on the first working day of the new year. Schools said staff shortages in coming days could further damage children’s education, with as many as one in five staff missing at the start of the term.

The question is though, given that the virus is clearly everywhere and none of the measures have succeeded in containing it, why continue with mass testing of the healthy at all?

Worth reading in full.

U.S. Government Drops Requirement to Test at End of Self-Isolation Because PCR Tests Produce So Many False Positives

The U.S. CDC has finally acknowledged that PCR tests produce false or cold positives following infection and dropped the requirement to be tested at the end of self-isolation, bringing American practice in line with the U.K.’s. ABC News has the story.

The newly updated CDC guidelines don’t require testing at the end of isolation because PCR tests can stay positive for up to 12 weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “Good Morning America” Wednesday.

“So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs,” Walensky said.

What’s baffling is that this is only now being acknowledged, when it has been a known issue since the beginning of the pandemic. How many people have had to remain isolated as PCRs have kept coming back positive? How much has this unnecessary isolation cost them and the wider economy?

This is tantamount to an admission by the CDC of gross incompetence, as the agency doesn’t even claim anything has changed or been newly discovered. Its experts either knew this information previously and didn’t act on it or didn’t know and have only just come across it even though it’s been highlighted as an issue for over 18 months. Either way, it is incompetence.