Covid testing

Go with the flow: how helpful is mass testing?

Over half the adult population has been vaccinated, new infections and deaths have plummeted to their lowest level since last September — and the government chooses this point to launch a programme to test every adult for Covid twice a week. The Prime Minister is due to announce this afternoon that lateral flow testing kits will be distributed by the million, free of charge to anyone who wants them. We will all be encouraged to test ourselves — and be placed under an obligation to self-isolate if they are positive. Why? We have spent the past three months on a massive vaccination programme, using vaccines that have proved pretty well 100 per

Covid cases have collapsed

Last month, Imperial College’s React study claimed that new cases of Covid were static or even rising slightly. This contradicted the figures for confirmed new cases, obtained through the Test and Trace system, which had shown a sharp fall in new cases from the second week of January onwards. Given that React tests a randomised sample of the population to arrive at an estimate for prevalence of the disease — and is therefore not capable of being skewed by the number of tests being performed — some were more inclined to believe that this, and not the number of confirmed cases, showed the genuine picture. However, February’s React study, published

Is the virus retreating?

Imperial College’s React study was in the news again this morning. The latest instalment swabbed 167,642 people between 6 and 22 January and found that 2,282 of them tested positive. A weighted average suggested that 1.57 per cent of the population had the virus between those dates. The study concluded: ‘Prevalence remained high throughout, but with the suggestion of a decline at the end of the study period’. It led to reports this morning that the latest wave of the epidemic is declining only very slowly. The React study, however, seems to be increasingly out of line with government data on new infections, as picked up through the test and

Are infections rising?

Not for the first time, people could be excused for feeling a bit confused by conflicting data on Covid-19. This morning, many news outlets reported claims from the latest React study that levels of Covid-19 infections are no longer falling and may, in fact, be rising. This is somewhat at odds with government data that shows cases have peaked since the beginning of the third English lockdown. For days, the figure for new infections, as detected by NHS Test and Trace, and published on the government’s Covid-19 dashboard, have been falling. In the past seven days, the number of new infections recorded across the UK was 294,172 — 21.5 per

Britain is leading the world in the fight against Covid. Seriously

How is Britain doing in the battle against coronavirus? Many have repeatedly declared we have the worst track record of any country, with both the highest death rate in Europe and suffering the highest economic hit. Newspaper headlines have constantly loud-hailed our alleged failings, from the shortage of ventilators to putting ourselves at the back of the vaccine queue by not joining the EU’s programme. The only trouble is that this is just not true. In many ways, the UK’s response to coronavirus is quite literally, dare I say it, world-beating. Clearly there have been many setbacks and hiccups. Clearly there are many lessons to be learned. But just as

Could ten million Covid tests a day get Britain back to normal?

In all the excitement about the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, it was easy to miss news of the other great hope for getting our lives back to some form of normal. Vaccines are not expected to have much impact for most of us this winter and it will be several years before they suppress Covid-19 globally. For now, a mass testing programme — not any jab — is probably the best chance of putting Covid back in its box. It has been piloted this week in Liverpool and it might be coming to us all in the near future. No one’s exactly sure yet how it will work, but you