Plans to post millions of rapid testing kits to homes are BLOCKED by regulator amid fears they are not accurate enough when people test themselves
- Tests only pick up 49 per cent of infections when used by ordinary people
- Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency blocked mass rollout
- Boris Johnson has said lateral flow tests could bring down infection rates
The Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have repeatedly said that the lateral flow tests, which deliver results in 30 minutes, could help to bring down infection rates in regions hit hard by Covid-19.
On Friday, Mr Johnson refused to rule out the drastic step of a third national lockdown.
Latest figures from the Department of Health show there are 18,469 patients in hospital with coronavirus, the highest number since mid-April.
And a further 28,507 Covid cases were reported on Friday – the second highest total yet – along with 489 deaths. This figure was up from 424 a week earlier.
But the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) believes the lateral flow tests are not accurate enough when people test themselves – dampening hopes that they could help to avoid a new lockdown.
The tests only pick up around 49 per cent of infections when used by ordinary people, a previous pilot study showed.
Boris Johnson’s plan to post millions of lateral flow testing kits to homes each week in the hope of avoiding a third national lockdown have been blocked by the regulator
The news that the MHRA is blocking the rollout of postal kits was reported by the Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper also revealed that frustration is growing at the top of government about the slow pace of the rollout of the rapid testing kits.
Mr Hancock is said to be being blamed about the failure to address the MHRA’s concerns about their accuracy.
The tests, produced by US-based firm Innova, only pick up 48.89 per cent of active infections when they were used by ordinary people, according to a University of Liverpool pilot programme.
Earlier tests carried out in the lab found the kits had an overall sensitivity of 76.8 per cent, rising to 95 per cent in individuals with a high viral load.
A Whitehall official told the Telegraph that the proposals for home-testing went to the MHRA ‘in recent days’.
The Prime Minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have repeatedly said that the lateral flow tests, which deliver results in 30 minutes, could help to bring down infection rates in regions hit hard by Covid-19
But the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) believes the lateral flow tests are not accurate enough when people test themselves – dampening hopes that they could help to avoid a new lockdown
The lateral flow tests are also being authorised for use in care homes to allow residents to have more visitors.
Rapid coronavirus testing for schools
Rapid coronavirus testing will soon be available at every secondary school and college.
Students will not need to self-isolate if one of their ‘bubble’ comes down with the virus if they take daily tests for a week, the Department for Education says.
Under the new system, to be introduced in England in January and hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by one head, all staff will also be eligible for rapid tests weekly, regardless of whether they have come into contact with a positive case.
Officials hope the changes will improve attendance so pupils get more face-to-face teaching.
And Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said last week teachers would administer the tests to pupils when they return to schools next month.
The original concept behind what was dubbed Operation Moonshot was for people to test themselves at home.
If approved, millions of kits would be rolled out to homes weekly.
The news comes after Mr Johnson refused to rule out a third national lockdown on Friday.
When asked if England would follow the lead of Wales and Northern Ireland in announcing plans for new lockdowns later this month, he replied: ‘We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that.
‘But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.’
Schools minister Nick Gibb had earlier insisted England’s tier system was ‘very effective’ but then added ‘we rule nothing out’ when asked about the possibility of a new lockdown after Christmas.
Officials are said to be planning a draconian Tier Four regime which would see shops shut and commuters ordered to work from home.
They are alarmed by a surge in virus cases since the second lockdown ended more than two weeks ago.
A Government source told the Daily Mail last night that the Tier Four proposal was back on the table after being rejected by ministers last month.
‘We are not there yet but we are clearly in a worrying situation,’ the insider said.
‘It probably starts with closing non-essential retail and strengthening the work from home message.
‘But there are lots of things you could add to that – it’s still early days.’ Other sectors likely to be considered for closure in Tier Four include gyms, swimming pools and hairdressers.
OPERATION MOONSHOT WIDENED TO 67 AREAS OF ENGLAND
Mass rapid coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across in nearly 70 more local authorities, the Health Secretary said this month.
Matt Hancock revealed areas including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands will receive the rapid Covid-19 tests.
London, Birmingham, Manchester and Coventry are also among the cities to get a batch of tests.
At least 600,000 lateral flow tests have been sent out across the UK to kick-start the next stage of mass coronavirus testing, which ministers hope could finally send the virus packing.
Mass coronavirus testing being used in Liverpool will be rolled out across 66 local authorities, the Health Secretary said
The antigen tests can tell if a person is currently infected with coronavirus – even if they have no symptoms – and the technology can give results within an hour.
Every resident in Liverpool has been able to get tested for the disease since Friday, when the major army-backed scheme was first launched. The city, home to 500,000 people, was the first to be involved with No10’s ambitious ‘Operation Moonshot’ — a mission to screen millions of asymptomatic people every day.
Speaking on Sky News on November 10, Mr Hancock claimed 66 local authorities had already expressed interest in the mass-testing scheme. More are expected to sign up in the coming weeks.
Despite Mr Hancock saying it was 66 authorities, the Department of Health released a list of 67 authorities that will get the rapid tests.
He added: ‘I can confirm we are rolling out the sort of mass testing we are seeing in Liverpool, and indeed we earlier piloted in Stoke-on-Trent, across 66 local authorities.
‘Last night I wrote to the directors of public health of all local authorities in England saying we can make available these brilliant new lateral flow tests that give results in 15 minutes, and we can make them available to directors of public health right across the country.
‘Sixty-six expressed an interest in the first instance, I’m now expecting a whole load more.’
Mr Hancock also said that mass testing, like a vaccine roll-out, would be across the UK not just England.
He added: ‘The UK Government has bought the vaccine for the whole of the UK and it will be rolled out fairly across the whole of the UK with the same prioritisation no matter where you live in this country.
‘The same goes for mass testing, making sure we roll that out across the whole UK.’