To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the current rate is for false (a) positives and (b) negatives from (i) PCR and (ii) lateral flow covid-19 tests.
This answer is the replacement for a previous holding answer.
28 January 2021
The current tests are very specific and the risk of false positives where the test is reacting to other viruses is extremely low. Like any diagnostic test there is a possibility of a false negative or false positive result, but this is very small. Independent, confirmatory testing of positive samples indicates a test specificity that exceeds 99.3% or a false positive rate of 1% and additional guidance has been provided to laboratories to reduce the rate even further.
Lateral flow tests go through a rigorous evaluation by the country’s leading scientists with the latest data showing a sensitivity of 57.5% generally and 84.3% in people with high viral loads. They are accurate, reliable and successfully identify those with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic and could pass on the virus.