Pyser Testing

Testing

Link Between Positive Covid Tests and Covid Deaths Has Been Broken, Says NHS Leader

The vaccine has broken the link between positive Covid tests and Covid deaths, according to the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, who last week criticised the scientific modelling seen by the Government through much of the pandemic as “crude” and unreliable. Chris says that viewed alone, the raw number of positive tests does not tell the full story: “It is a much younger population that is coming in [for hospital treatment now], they are less clinically vulnerable” and much easier to treat. The MailOnline has the story.

Chris Hopson… said today that the surge in cases and hospital admissions in the Greater Manchester town was manageable for its hospitals.

Patients were generally younger and less sick, he suggested, than in the crippling second wave over the winter, and the numbers of people coming in were lower and significantly fewer of them are dying.

Vaccines appear to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting, Mr Hopson said, adding that they have broken the link between infections and “very high” levels of hospital admissions and deaths in earlier waves of the virus…

Bolton has been overtaken by nearby Blackburn as the country’s Covid hotspot after cases surged there driven by the Indian variant, which accounts for almost all infections in the town. Hospital admissions rose shortly after, to a peak of 49 people on wards with Covid and 14 admitted in a day, but these appear to be falling now, too, with 42 reported in patients on June 1st.

Mr Hopson said: “If – and it is a big if – if Bolton has gone through its complete cycle and if other areas follow Bolton, the view from the hospital there was that they were able to cope with the level of infections.”

His comments come as pressure is building towards Boris Johnson’s speech next Monday when he is expected reveal whether June 21st’s “Freedom Day” end of social distancing will go ahead. Current trends look as though he will prolong lockdown laws for a few more weeks or until the summer holidays to buy more time for vaccinations.

Mr Hopson told Times Radio: “It’s important not to just focus on the raw numbers here… you also do need to look at who’s being admitted into hospital and how clinically vulnerable and what level of acuity [illness] they’ve got.

“What chief executives are consistently telling us is that it is a much younger population that is coming in, they are less clinically vulnerable, they are less in need of critical care and therefore they’re seeing what they believe is a significantly lower mortality rate which is, you know, borne out by the figures.

“So it’s not just the numbers of people who are coming in, it’s actually the level of harm and clinical risk.”

Worth reading in full.

Holidaymakers Missing Return Flights Because of Delays by Covid Test Provider

British holidaymakers have complained of missing return flights because of long delays by a Government-approved Covid test provider. Various Government departments have attempted to pass the buck for resolving the matter, with the Department of Health concluding that the provider will be removed from the Government’s website if it continues failing to meet certain standards. The Sun has the story.

Qured promises users a “fit-to-fly” certificate within 30 to 40 minutes of receiving a negative test done via a video call.

But customers tell of hours of delays, making them miss return flights.

Others have complained that the firm’s £39 test kits were not delivered to their homes on time before they were due to fly out – meaning they could not leave.

One said of trying to get home: “Almost 24 hours later and no fit-to-fly certificate, despite a negative result in 20 minutes.”

The holidaymaker takes the test while on a video call to Qured and emails a picture of the result.

Confirmation is due back in the form of an official medical certificate, meaning they are fit to fly…

Qured said: “While the timings of delivery and results are generally accurate, they are subject to change due to circumstances out of our control.”

The Foreign Office said it was an issue for the Department for Transport.

The Department for Transport said it was an issue for the Department of Health.

The Department of Health said: “If a provider is failing to meet required standards, they get a five-day warning and are then removed from the gov.uk list.”

Qured is rated 2.4 out of five on Google Reviews and has received a good deal of criticism in recent days. One user commented on Friday: “I [am] deeply distressed and concerned. I did my online Covid test at 2:15 today (Friday) to enable me to return back to the U.K. on Saturday. I have not had my results back (this was now over 10 hours ago). My account does not show that the test has been undertaken let alone provide me with the ability to download my certificate to fly. Without this, I cannot book into my flight and am at risk of missing my flight altogether.” Another said: “If they can’t handle the volume of tests then they shouldn’t book so many appointments. This is really not acceptable.” Similar reviews can be found on Trustpilot, despite the firm having an average rating of 3.4 out of five.

The Government’s list of Covid test providers – which still features this firm – was last updated on May 28th.

The Sun report is worth reading in full.

“Cautious” Resumption of International Travel as Only 12 Countries Are Added to “Green List”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a “cautious” resumption of international travel for people in England from May 17th, with only 12 countries added to the Government’s “green list”. Last month, the Commons’ Transport Select Committee told the Government to publish this list by May 1st “at the latest”. Missing this deadline and leaving the announcement to the last minute has placed the (already struggling) transport industry under even more pressure.

Travellers to countries on the “green list” will not have to self-isolate upon their return to the U.K., but they will still have to fork out for PCR tests. The lowest cost of these tests is currently £60, adding almost £250 to the bill for a family of four. The countries and territories that will feature on the “green list” are:

  • Portugal
  • Israel
  • Singapore
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Brunei
  • Iceland
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • St Helena, Tristan de Cunha, Ascension Island

Turkey, the Maldives and Nepal have been added to the “red list“. Most European countries will feature on the “amber list”, including France, Spain, Greece and Croatia, meaning returning holidaymakers from those countries will have to self-isolate for at least five days. BBC News has a guide to the rules for travelling to countries on the different lists under the Government’s “traffic light” system.

Each of the three lists will be reviewed every three weeks after May 17th, but a number of countries are expected to stay off the “green list” for quite some time. Those already on the list could also end up being relegated to the amber or red list (assuming the Foreign Office hasn’t already refused to sanction travel to them). MailOnline has more.

[The Transport Secretary] warned that the [green list] countries would remain on a “watch list” and reserved the right to take them off again if there is a spike in Covid cases.

Fronting a Government press conference tonight, Mr Shapps said the plan was “necessarily cautious”, adding: “We must make sure that the countries we reconnect with are safe.” …

The Department for Transport also announced that from May 17th, people who have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will be able to use the NHS app to demonstrate their status.

People who do not have the app will be able to request an NHS letter from that date.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: “Frantic work is under way” to prepare the NHS mobile app which will be used as a vaccine passport when international travel returns, according to the Guardian – “but there are concerns it may not be ready in time”. No shit.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph reports that returning holidaymakers could face queues of up to eight hours at airports.

Stop Press 3: MailOnline has upped the airport wait to 10 hours.

Border Officials Finding “100 Fake Covid Test Certificates a Day”

Border officials have said that around 100 fake Covid test certificates are found every day at the U.K. border because the documents are “very easy” to forge. Fakes are usually only identified due to spelling errors. The Telegraph has the story.

Around 100 fake Covid test certificates are being discovered at the border every day, in what experts have branded a “very leaky” system, it has emerged.

The fake documents claiming a traveller has a recent negative test result are “very easy” to forge, MPs have been told, and there is no way to tell how many more are being missed…

[Lucy] Moreton [Professional Officer for the Immigration Services Union] told the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that around 20,000 people are coming into the country each day, the majority of whom are hauliers.

To enter England people must provide proof of a negative test taken in the three days before departure – which can be shown to border agents as a printed document or through an email or text message.

Asked how border agents are able to verify proof of a negative test, Ms Moreton told MPs: “We’re not, is the simple answer, it’s predominantly taken on trust.

“We do get 100 or more a day of fake Covid certificates, that we catch.”

She added they usually identify them due to spelling errors. 

But many certificates are in a foreign language which could make spelling mistakes trickier to spot, she added.

“Otherwise they are taken at face value,” she said.

Ms Moreton also said there is “little to no” evidence on how well people are adhering to quarantine rules. Arrivals from countries on the Government’s “red list” (to which India was recently added) must isolate for 10 days at a Government-approved hotel – and pay £1,750 for the privilege. The Government has attempted to crack down on rule-breakers by paying the private firm Mitie up to £90 million to carry out 10,000 home visits every day.

The Telegraph’s report is worth reading in full.

Aviation Bosses Criticise Government’s “Unfair” Testing Plans for Overseas Travel

Aviation bosses have criticised the Government’s “traffic light system” for resuming international travel, saying that the requirement for travellers to and from “green list” countries to be tested for Covid will price many people out of holidays abroad. The Mail has the story.

The new traffic light scheme will see countries rated green, amber or red using criteria including vaccination levels, case numbers and the prevalence of coronavirus variants.  

Travellers returning from countries rated “green” will not be required to self-isolate, although pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the testing requirement should be ditched because if countries have cases under control and have extensive vaccination programmes then “green is green”. 

He said paying for laboratory-based PCR tests would cost “way over and above what the cost is of an average easyJet fare” which would result in only opening up international travel “for people who can afford it”.

He said that would not be “fair” or “right” as he also questioned whether the approach was backed up by science.

His comments came after Mr Johnson said he is “hopeful” of resuming some non-essential foreign travel from May 17th but refused to give a firm commitment to the roadmap date.

Government regulations on testing for those travelling abroad has been widely criticised for adding so much to the cost of holidays. A Lockdown Sceptics reader recently highlighted the additional costs suffered by British travellers to France because of the requirement to have three PCR tests at a minimum of £120 each.

If you want to come back from France to the UK you have to provide a negative PCR test. That costs a very reasonable € 15… in France. 

But on your return to the UK, you have to undergo two more PCR tests, on day two and day five after you arrive. For some mysterious reason, the cheapest tests in the UK are £120(!) each from Boots (and ridiculous amounts more from other providers). Even the Boots “bargain basement” cost adds an outrageous £360 to the total cost of a trip to France, as, of course, you need a PCR test outward bound too!

Lloyds Pharmacy has since undercut Boots’ PCR test cost… by £1.

The Mail’s report is worth reading in full.

Testing Regime in Schools Ignores Problem of False Positives

Biostatistics Professor Jon Deeks has written a critical piece on the shortfalls of the current mass testing regime for children in schools. Of particular concern is the occurrence of false positives. UnHerd has the story.

The fitness for purpose [of the testing regime] is a combination of the sensitivity of the test (what percentage of infected cases it correctly identifies) and the specificity (what percentage of uninfected people it correctly says are negative). But it also depends on how, where and when a test is used.

Different studies of the UK Innova lateral flow test (the test being used in schools) have reported variously that its sensitivity is 78%, 58%, 40% and even 3%. The higher 78% and 58% figures come from using the test among people with symptoms, the lower 40% and 3% figures come from using it for mass testing among people without symptoms, as is being done in schools. (And none of these studies have assessed how well the test detects infection in children). So although the test can pick up people who have the infection, it will miss quite a few – so there is a risk that disinhibition after a negative test could actually exacerbate case numbers if children incorrectly think they are safe and the rules no longer apply.

But the more concerning aspect are the false positives, related to the specificity. The original Government studies found only around 3 in 1,000 people were getting false positives, and this dropped to 1 in 1,000 in the Liverpool study. Doesn’t sound like a lot, right?

But consider the problem from the perspective of a pupil who has just got a positive test result. The reasonable question for them (and their parents) to ask is “what are the chances that this is a false positive?” Given that a positive test result means the pupil, their family and their school bubble will have to isolate for 10 days, a high false positive probability is a real problem.

Jon, who is a Senior Researcher in the Institute of Applied Health Research at Birmingham University, goes on to outline three scenarios regarding the prevalence of the disease and the accuracy of the tests.

Where 1 in 100 pupils have the infection (Scenario A), by testing a million we would find 5,000 cases but get 990 false positives. This ratio of true to false positives is quite favourable – 5 out of every 6 with positive results actually would have COVID-19 infection – so the probability that the pupil genuinely has the infection is over 80%.

However, the picture becomes less favourable as the infection becomes rarer: if only 1 in 1,000 pupils were infected (Scenario B) we would detect 500 cases but get 999 false positives. The ratio of true to false positives is now unfavourable – one true result for every two false results.

If only 1 in 10,000 had the infection there would be one true result for every 20 false results (Scenario C). Why would anybody consent to a test where the chances that a positive result is wrong are so much higher than it is right? This isn’t the fault of the test – it’s the application in a low prevalence setting. Using any test – even one with an incredibly high specificity – will lead to more false than true positive results when the disease becomes rare.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Government’s refusal to let pupils use follow-up tests to confirm positive Covid results is “ruining” their return to school, parents say.

Stop Press 2: Professor Deeks made the same point in an interview for Radio 5 Live.

School Rapid Test Cannot Be Overruled, Says Minister

The number of secondary school pupils able to return to the classroom will be limited by the Government’s insistence that a positive lateral flow test result in a school cannot be overruled by the standard PCR test. Schools Minister Vicky Ford has said that pupils who test positive via the lateral flow tests will need to isolate, along with their families and close contacts and “should not take a PCR”. The BBC has the story.

The Government is sticking to the rule that a positive rapid Covid test done in secondary schools in England cannot be overruled by the gold-standard tests processed by labs.

Concerns have been raised by testing experts that significant numbers could be incorrectly told they are infected.

They have called for all positives from the rapid testing done in schools to be confirmed by the standard PCR test.