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Covid-19: Mass testing is inaccurate and gives false sense of security, minister admits

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4916 (Published 18 December 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4916

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  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

Mass testing of people without covid-19 symptoms is “not an accurate way of screening the general population,” a senior figure at the Department of Health and Social Care has said in a letter seen by The BMJ (see Related content).

The comments were made by James Bethell, one of England’s health ministers, in response to a letter from an MP raising concerns about blanket polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing on behalf of a constituent.

In his letter Bethell stated that “swab testing people with no symptoms is not an accurate way of screening the general population, as there is a real risk of giving false reassurance.” He added, “Widespread asymptomatic testing could undermine the value of testing, as there is a risk of giving misleading results. Rather, only people with covid-19 symptoms should get tested.”

The comments were made as the government expanded mass testing of asymptomatic …

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