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expert group briefing on ‘Operation Moonshot’ mass testing/population screening for SARS-Cov-2

Government plans for mass testing for SARS-CoV-2 – sometimes referred to as Operation Moonshot – signal a major change in strategy, away from the current focus on test and trace which targets people with symptoms, to screening people who do not have symptoms. Mass testing is currently being piloted in Liverpool and will be applied to university students in the coming month. The shift to mass testing of asymptomatic people raises a number of questions about the likely impact of this new strategy, its cost, the organisational challenges it presents, the effectiveness of the overall programme and the performance of the tests that will be used.

For this SMC Briefing, the expert group compiled a new briefing note which details the key questions to be answered.  Journalists dialled in to hear the four experts discuss their briefing note and the issues raised including:

  • Why is mass population screening being offered as part of controlling the covid-19 pandemic?
  • What is the evidence that screening will reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2?
  • How good are the tests?
  • Could the screening be harmful?
  • How much will the programme cost?
  • What decision-making process was followed for planning, evaluating, and agreeing the introduction of the moonshot screening?
  • How is the screening programme being integrated into primary care and other public health services?
  • Are other countries using screening for the entire population?


Speakers included:

Professor Jon Deeks, Professor of Biostatistics, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham

Professor Allyson Pollock, Clinical Professor of Public Health, University of Newcastle

Professor Sian Taylor-Phillips, Professor of Population Health, University of Warwick

Dr Angela Raffle, Consultant in Public Health, Honorary Senior Lecturer Bristol Medical School Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol

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