Revolutionary new 90 minute tests for Covid-19 have been hailed as the latest potential ‘game-changer’ in the battle against the virus.
The government plans to have more than one million daily tests by the winter and ministers hope the speed and portability of the new tests will help prevent the need for another national lockdown.
The details emerged as one of the UK’s top scientists and Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse, criticised the government’s “shroud of secrecy” over its decision making process during the pandemic, saying it not only harms public trust but also the results achieved.
Tests for teachers, hospitals, care homes and airports
It is expected the two new tests – LamPORE and DnaNudge – will be rolled out to hospitals and care homes from next week and are likely to be used to screen passengers at airports which could help reduce quarantine times.
Teachers will also be “randomly” tested “to determine whether reopening schools in September has any affect on transmission rates”, the Telegraph reports.
The new tests can be processed “on the spot” with results available in 90 minutes – which compares to current tests that need to be sent to laboratories and have a 24-hour turnaround time – meaning far more people can be tested far more quickly, giving authorities valuable data in order to contain outbreaks faster.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the “millions of new rapid Covid tests” will help “us to break [the] chains of transmission quickly” and added: “The fact these tests can detect flu as well as Covid will be hugely beneficial as we head into winter, so patients can follow the right advice to protect themselves and others.”
Experts urge caution given govt’s record on tests
Some experts have urged caution around the new tests and called on the government to “wait for proper evaluations” before signing contracts given “mistakes made in test purchasing” have already risked lives and “wasted millions of pounds”.
“Repeatedly through the pandemic the government has raced ahead purchasing tests on the basis of manufacturer’s claims, and have found later when independent studies are done that the tests do not have adequate performance for use in the NHS,” said Birmingham University’s Professor Jon Deeks, who has been part of a scientific team evaluating coronavirus tests.
“We would hope that the government would wait for proper evaluations, and consider the scientific evidence for all available tests before signing further contracts. The mistakes made in test purchasing have wasted millions of pounds as well as put lives at risk.”
UCL professor of virology Deenan Pillay also expressed his concern that the government is purchasing tests that have not yet been fully evaluated.
Nobel laureate tells govt to lift ‘shroud of secrecy’ damaging public trust
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse – one of the UK’s leading scientists – has called on the government to be more transparent about how its decisions on the virus are made in order to keep public trust and improve outcomes.
“Decisions are too often shrouded in secrecy,” said Nurse. “They need challenge and we need processes to ensure that happens. If they are going to keep the trust of the nation, they need to make those discussions more public.”
Nurse, who is director of London’s Francis Crick Institute and chief scientific advisor to the European Commission, said: “It sometimes seems like a ‘black box’ made up of scientists, civil servants and politicians are coming up with the decisions.”
The former president of the Royal Society said the process “needs to be more open” and called for “greater transparency, greater scrutiny and greater challenge to get the best results.”