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Testing, Testing of England

As it faces new lockdowns, the UK is rolling out rapid COVID-19 testing for people without symptoms across England, BBC News reports.

The Independent notes, though, that questions have been raised about the accuracy of the results from lateral flow tests. In November, the UK launched a pilot program in which residents of Liverpool were offered repeat SARS-CoV-2 testing using a combination of existing and new rapid lateral flow tests. Results from that program suggested that lateral flow tests had a sensitivity of 48.9 percent and a specificity of 99.9 percent, lower than what Public Health England and the University of Oxford had previously found.

Experts tell the Independent that mass testing using lateral flow tests may give a high number of false negatives. "This is a seriously dangerous policy to implement," the University of Birmingham's Jon Deeks, who is also leading the Cochrane Collaboration's research on COVID-19 tests, tells it. "The government is disregarding the fact that [infected] people getting false negative results will increase the spread of COVID."

According to the BBC, the community testing program is being expanded to all of England and local governments have been told to prioritize testing for those who cannot work from home.