As government sends the army to organise mass testing of lorry drivers sitting at ports, controversy continues about whether these rapid tests actually work, with some scientists calling for this community testing to be stopped. Lateral Flow testing of asymptomatic populations has been rolled out in a number of community pilots and was offered to university students before they returned home for the Christmas break. Further deployment is intended when students return in January as well as across other settings, including in schools and colleges.
Proponents say these tests offer easy access and very quick turnaround of results needed to break chains of transmission and are also much cheaper than lab-based tests [one tenth the cost of PCR]. However the efficacy of the tests has recently been called into question, with some experts concerned that by giving false reassurance the tests could do more harm than good*
This briefing provided journalists an opportunity to hear from the academics actually leading the evaluation of the tests including Professor Tim Peto [Oxford], Professor Louise Kenny [Liverpool] and Professor Iain Buchan [Liverpool]. They discussed the initial Oxford-Porton Down study, ‘real world’ findings from the Liverpool pilot as well as unpublished data on lateral flow tests and the new variant Covid-19.
Prof Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine, Medical Sciences Division, University of Oxford
Prof Jacqui Ramagge, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Durham University
Prof Louise Kenny, Executive Pro Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool
Prof Calum Semple, Professor of Outbreak Medicine, University of Liverpool, SAGE & NERVTAG
Prof Tim Peto, Professor of Medicine, Oxford University
Prof Iain Buchan, Executive Dean, Institute of Population Health, University of Liverpool
This Briefing was accompanied by and SMC Roundup of Comments