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GSD calls on Govt to make full public statement on false negative tests

The GSD has said it is “seriously concerned” that for the second time in a week, UEFA tests have called into question the accuracy of the results of the Public Health University Lab.

The Opposition has called on the Government to make a full public statement on the issue. It follows the tests carried out on the Kosovan football team last week which were given the all clear with negative results, but which the UEFA laboratories later found that eight players tested positive for Covid-19.

“The distinction drawn today by health officials between diagnostic testing and screening testing is not going to allay the concerns of the public on the accuracy of tests and whether the testing strategy is the right one to prevent a spread of the disease,” GSD MP Daniel Feetham said.

“There is already a lot of concern on the part of parents, pupils and teachers as to whether we are adequately prepared to safely open schools in September, which is what we all want. This kind of news simply adds to the already significant concerns and questions people have”.

“We note the statement from Director of Public Health, that these tests "never misses a high concentration of the virus", and that those that are "missed" are not significant because the individuals are “not seriously infected or infectious”. However you are talking about 25% to 30% of false negatives and there is genuine confusion on the part of the public as to the consequences of a negative result.”

“The reality is that regardless of whether a result is negative, if a member of the public has the symptoms, they should self isolate and that message is not getting through because people assume that the results are accurate,” Mr Feetham said adding that this needs to be explained to the community.

“We are not doctors, but is it right to say that if the tests are negative people are not “seriously infected or Infectious”? This just encourages people to go about their usual business.”

“Is not better to tell people that these tests have a 25-30% chance of being inaccurate and therefore if you have symptoms you should self isolate? How many people who have been tested negative does the Government estimate where in reality positives for Covid-19.”

“This has real implications for the numbers of locally transmitted and infected people. Does the strategy for combating the spread Covid-19 vary in the light of this information? As public health officials have rightly pointed out, this disease can only be effectively dealt with if people cooperate and do the right things. People need the right information to do the right things and this false negative issue has come as a big surprise to people.”

“In fact research from Johns Hopkins University (MD, USA) has found that the chance of these tests giving a false negative is greater than 1 in 5, at times being far higher. The study, which analysed seven previously published studies that evaluated these tests, calls into question the accuracy of the predictive value of such tests.”

“The study concluded that the probability of a false negative Covid-19 test decreased from 100% on Day 1 of the infection to 67% on Day 4. This further decreased to 20% on Day 8, 3 days after a patient would first start to experience Covid-19 symptoms.”

“That is why clear messaging as to what the results of these tests mean is so important because people could assume they are free of the disease when in fact they are not and can mistakenly believe their symptoms are attributable to something else and start spreading the disease.”

“We also ask whether the Government has ruled out low level contamination as a reason for the false negatives, which from other studies can be problem with these tests and to explain why diagnostic tests are not more widely used which are 100% accurate.”

Mr Feetham added: “We do not want to alarm the public and we recognise that public health officials have been very successful in combating the disease but the public are concerned and a full public statement and guidance from the Government is necessary.”

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