If Covid has taught us anything, it is that nothing is straightforward and hard-fought gains cannot be taken for granted. So while we make a toast to opening up, we must remain vigilant against the virus, and in particular outbreaks of variants of concern.
While many millions of people are yet to receive a vaccine we are still at risk. Mass testing remains a key tool in our arsenal, yet huge questions remain over its accuracy, particularly in areas of low infection such as the capital.
These concerns surround the number of false positives associated with lateral flow tests, which potentially call into question the validity of mass testing. False positives also lead to people unnecessarily self-isolating, meaning many are forced to miss school or earnings from work. Data from the ONS suggest one-third of people have lost income because of self-isolation.
The Government must therefore release new data on the accuracy of lateral flow tests and set out how they can be used most effectively in the roll-out of mass testing. There is clearly a part to play for lateral flow tests, which are less expensive and produce results more quickly than traditional PCR tests. But given they are also more likely to generate false positives, we must better understand their role.
We know how crucial confidence in the vaccine programme has been in the UK’s battle against Covid-19. Faith in testing is also paramount, so those who get a positive result go on to self-isolate.