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Coronavirus: Screening

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 133241, tabled on 30 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment his Department has made of the implications for its recent policy on mass testing asymptomatic populations and using lateral flow tests for access to care homes of its subsequent advice that swab testing people with no symptoms is not an accurate way of screening the general population, as there is a real risk of giving false reassurance. Widespread asymptomatic testing could undermine the value of testing, as there is a risk of giving misleading results.

This answer is the replacement for a previous holding answer.

Answered on

11 March 2021

Following the development of approved new technologies, NHS Test and Trace launched small scale pilots to allow more asymptomatic testing in populations where prevalence of COVID-19 was thought to be higher or where individuals are more at risk. Extensive clinical evaluation has been carried out on the lateral flow or swab tests. Evaluations from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show these tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community for screening and surveillance purposes. While false positives or false negatives can never be completely ruled out, the likelihood of a false positive remains low at approximately four in 1,000 people tested.

Extensive testing has shown lateral flow devices are suitable for use in care homes where they can help to identify people who are the most likely to spread the virus further and therefore support the prevention of transmission of the disease from staff and visitors.

Named day
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