A top public health expert has said the prime minister was wrong to accredit the fall in infection rates in Liverpool to the mass testing scheme, and claimed the trial results of lateral flow tests had been “falsely represented”.
Dr Angela Raffle, a consultant in public health and honorary senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is very concerning to me that, with these lateral flow tests, the evidence on how they perform in the field has actually been kept hidden and falsely represented by the government.
“When the Porton Down results (into the lateral flow test trials) came out, it was reported that they showed that the results were highly sensitive and specific, but actually they were only 58% sensitive in the trial that used quickly-trained staff.”
Her comments come amid concern in some parts of the care home sector over the use of lateral flow tests, with homes in Greater Manchester urged not to use them to allow visits.
Dr Raffle, a member of the National Screening Committee, said in Liverpool “30% of the tests that were ‘very infectious’ were missed”, adding: “The infection rate in Liverpool has come down no quicker than in many other places that haven’t got mass testing and we haven’t yet seen a proper evaluation report from Liverpool.
“So the claims that the prime minister and the secretary of state for health are making that there has been a three-quarters drop in Liverpool because of mass testing are completely false.”
Coronavirus cases increased in 20 of Wales’s 22 local authority areas on Thursday, with a “rising tide” of infections seen in both urban and rural areas, health minister Vaughan Gething said.
He told Good Morning Britain the Welsh government is acting on scientific evidence in imposing a ban on pubs, restaurants and cafes serving alcohol from 6pm on Friday.
He said a £340m package, in addition to measures taken by the UK government, is being provided to support hospitality businesses that will be “hard hit” by the restriction. Gething said:
I won’t pretend this won’t have a really significant impact on those businesses, at pretty much the worst time of the year for them as well, and I really do recognise that.
But if we don’t act on the evidence, then I’m afraid we won’t be meeting our responsibilities to keep Wales safe and to keep people alive.
Alok Sharma defends UK’s rapid approval of Covid vaccine
Good morning, this is Jessica Murray, I’ll be running the liveblog today.
The government has again defended the UK’s swift approval of a coronavirus vaccine amid global criticism of the speedy process.
Business secretary Alok Sharma this morning said the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is “very much regarded as the gold standard by international scientists” and has been “absolutely meticulous in this whole process”.
“The MHRA is of course independent and people should feel entirely confident that this vaccine is safe. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t have been approved. It wouldn’t have got the clearance from the MHRA,” he said.
His comments came as Anthony Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease scientist, apologised for remarks that appeared to criticise the UK’s approval process.
Fauci, who leads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, initially said the UK “ran around the corner of the marathon and joined it in the last mile” and it had “rushed through” approval of the vaccine
He also said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been careful to avoid “cutting corners” because it did not want to fuel vaccine scepticism.
However, Fauci later told the BBC he did not mean to imply “any sloppiness even though it came out that way” and said: “I have a great deal of confidence in what the UK does both scientifically and from a regulator standpoint.”
Sharma also said said he was “very confident” 800,000 doses of the jab would be available for the start of the rollout next week and he hoped “we will have some millions” by the end of the year.
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