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Covid lateral flow test not fit for purpose, doctors warn

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Covid lateral flow test not fit for purpose

Lateral flow testing—the quick and easy way to see if someone without symptoms has a Covid-19 infection—isn’t fit for purpose, doctors warn.

The test delivers the result in just 30 minutes and can give the all-clear for key employees to continue working.

Only around 76 percent of the tests are producing accurate results, and it falls to just 57 percent when self-trained staff use it at track and trace centres.

But people aren’t being told that their test results are likely to be wrong—either telling them they have Covid-19 when they don’t (false positive) or reassuring them they are healthy when, in fact, they have the virus (false negative).

The test is more likely to produce a false negative result, and this could be as high as 23 percent of all tests. “It’s a rule-in, not rule-out test with false-positives low and false negatives high,” said Margaret McCartney, a family doctor in Glasgow.

(Source: BMJ, 2021; 372:n238)

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