The UK is leading the way with its vaccination and testing program and is now offering the entire population two free lateral flow tests (LFTs) a week from tomorrow (Friday 9 April) as the Government drives towards ending the COVID-19 lockdown.
The inexpensive tests can now be delivered to the home, in addition to existing LFT supply to the workplace, schools or designated sites and to people at risk, including frontline NHS workers, care home staff and residents.
Self-administered and able to deliver highly accurate results in as little as 30 minutes, LFTs are being offered for use whether people have COVID symptoms or not.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“Around 1 in 3 people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms, and as we re-open society and resume parts of life we have all dearly missed, regular rapid testing is going to be fundamental in helping us quickly spot positive cases and squash any outbreaks.
“The vaccine programme has been a shot in the arm for the whole country, but reclaiming our lost freedoms and getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.”
While vaccine development took centre stage, the Government identified a key role for frequent mass testing by partnering with US firm Innova Medical Group – the world’s No1 LFT supplier – and using the codename ‘Operation Moonshot’.
The tests use cutting edge nanotechnology and their emergence into the national limelight drew comment from the co-founder of the not-for-profit World Nano Foundation (WNF) which promotes innovation in the field:
“It’s good to see the UK Government expanding Operation Moonshot because it will underpin the end of lockdown and allow self-regulated day passes to enable sports and leisure venues to fully re-open,” said WNF co-founder Paul Sheedy.
Ultimately, it will also show that frequent rapid mass testing can be the additional ‘insurance policy’ to end lockdowns everywhere and protect against future pandemics.
“Epidemiological experts know early detection and response is vital against new diseases. Mass and frequent testing enables this and suppresses transmission by breaking the chains of infection.
“Countries across Europe and elsewhere are seeing recent surges in infection because they are not using this approach, which we have demonstrated to governments all over the world using our Test2Suppress™ model to show how frequent rapid mass testing alongside an international vaccination strategy will squash the virus.
“Test2Suppress™ works even when a small minority refuse to take the test or those testing positive refuse to isolate, because the vast and responsible majority will still drive infection rates downwards and leave the virus nowhere to go.
“We understand that self-testing accuracy starts at 60-70% for the first test, but rises to more than 85% next time and 95+% after that – these are simple tests and results are clearer as people become familiar with them.
“A twice-weekly testing ‘insurance policy’ is a small price to pay for an end to the constant uncertainty and crushing impact on mental health and economic cost of a lockdown.”
“As we have seen in France recently with the Breton Variant, where the PCR tests weren’t detecting it, you must have various forms of community testing constantly so new variants do not get a chance to accelerate transmissions with asymptomatic carriers.”
Getting a test
- home ordering
- workplace testing programmes, on-site or at home for companies with more than 10 workers
- community testing, offered by all local authorities
- collection at a local PCR test site during specific test collection time windows
- testing onsite at schools and colleges
A new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service is also launching for anyone aged over 18 without symptoms.
If testing at home, individuals need to register their results online or call 119. They should self-isolate if positive and order a confirmatory PCR test. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should book a test online or by calling 119.
Recent NHS Test and Trace analysis shows that for every 1,000 LFTs carried out, there is less than one false positive result; the tests detect high levels of virus and are very effective in finding people without symptoms yet highly likely to transmit the disease.
Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID-19 Stategic Response Director at Public Health England and Chief Medical Adviser to NHS Test and Trace, said:
“Rapid testing helps us find COVID-19 cases that we wouldn’t otherwise know about, helping to break chains of transmission. These tests are effective in detecting people that are infectious and therefore most likely to transmit infection to others. They are another tool we now have to help maintain lower infection rates.
“I encourage everyone to take up the offer of these free rapid tests – they are quick and easy to carry out in your own home.”
“As we have seen in France recently with the Breton variant where the PCR tests weren’t detecting it, you have to have various forms of testing constantly in the community so these variants do not get a chance to accelerate transmissions with asymptomatic carriers”