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Coronavirus: Screening

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 107674, tabled on 22 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the extent to which (a) polymerase chain reaction testing for covid-19 may identify non-infectious remnant RNA of the covid-19 virus as a positive test result and (b) positive tests for covid-19 reported in England would not indicate contagious cases of covid-19.

Answered on

25 November 2020

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is designed to detect viral RNA. Therefore, there will be cases where the PCR test is detecting remnants of viral RNA in the absence of infectious virus.

Public Health England (PHE) has not assessed the extent to which the PCR will pick up viral remnants rather than infectious virus.

An assessment of which positive cases do not reflect contagious virus would depend on individual case by case review. PHE has not performed such a review and therefore does not hold this data.