Boris Johnson defends mass Covid-19 testing programme

Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor
·2-min read

Boris Johnson has defended the use of lateral flow tests for the general population, saying they “offer great prospects for the country”.

The Prime Minister was questioned about the tests following reports that the UK’s healthcare regulator has raised concerns with the Government that the mass testing programme is “a stretch” of the authorised use of rapid tests.

Alongside the rollout of vaccines, the Government says regular testing is an essential part of the easing of restrictions, will help identify variants and will stop individual cases from becoming outbreaks.

But the Guardian reported that while the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had approved lateral flow to find coronavirus cases, it was unhappy they may be used as a “green light” for people to have more freedom.

Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit to Wrexham: “I do think that the whole lateral flow test issue is very important.

“The lateral flow tests offer great prospects for the country. People, I think, try to sort of rubbish them and say, ‘well, you get too many false positives’.

“Actually, a lateral flow test can be very, very useful in helping to isolate cases of the disease, getting people to take themselves out of circulation and stop the speed of the spread of the disease.

“So, I’m a big believer in lateral flow tests and would encourage everybody to make use of them.”

Responding to media reports, Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the MHRA, said: “The MHRA is working closely with NHS Test and Trace to ensure the tests are used in appropriate situations according to the available evidence.

“No test is 100% reliable, even those that meet regulatory standards for performance and safety.

“Even with a negative test result, people must continue to follow national and local rules and guidelines, including regular handwashing, social distancing and wearing face coverings, where required.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “There is clear evidence that by using rapid testing we are identifying cases we would otherwise not find, allowing people to isolate, so they can prevent further spread of the disease and save lives.

“We have been clear from the outset that nobody should interpret a negative test result or a vaccine dose as a green light to drop their guard.

“If we want to keep sending this virus into retreat, people must continue to maintain social distance and follow the latest guidelines.”