Professor Sylvia Richardson has written to Transport Minister, Grant Shapps regarding the move to replace day two PCR tests with lateral flow tests (LFTs) for those travelling to England. Mr Shapps announced that LFTs will replace PCR tests from the end of this month, in order to reduce costs for holidaymakers.
The letter expresses concern around the accuracy of LFTs – especially in the context of asymptomatic screening – citing several studies in which the tests have failed to pick up cases. Moving to lateral flow tests for all inbound travellers risks missing a substantial proportion of coronavirus cases, the letter says, plus the low sensitivity of the tests risks slowing our identification of new variants taking hold in the UK.
Professor Richardson makes a number of recommendations:
- This is a valuable opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of LFTs. The government should identify groups of passengers to receive both PCR and LFTs tests, so the sensitivity of the latter can be evaluated in this specific context.
- Surveillance of the virus at the border could be improved by administering PCR tests to a random sample of passengers when they enter the country. The RSS would be pleased to help design such a programme.
- As evidence suggests that self-administered tests are less reliable, people should report to a specific location, for example a pharmacy or testing site to have their LFT administered.
Read the letter in full.