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The costly rollout of asymptomatic screening for COVID-19 in UK universities has resulted in very few positive cases following its launch in December under the government’s ambitious £ 100 billion Moonshot program. This was the result of a study published today by the BMJ.

It turns out that almost two thirds of higher education institutions do not collect data on the number of students tested and one third do not keep a record of how many positive tests were performed. Experts have described campus tests as random and chaotic with an “outrageous” price tag.

On February 17, 2021, the BMJ sent freedom of information requests to the 216 universities and colleges that were eligible to receive public funding for twice-weekly cross-flow tests for students, asking how much they had received, how many tests they had taken, and how many positive Tests came back.

Among 69 institutions that disclosed three months’ worth of data, 1,649 positive results from 335,383 tests were reported, representing a positive rate of 0.5%.

The BMJ also noted widespread reluctance among universities and colleges to exchange information about costs and the effects of tests on containing the virus.

Only 16 institutes disclosed full data on their funding, the number of tests performed, and the number of positive results. These showed that the government was spending approximately £ 3,000 per positive test result.

However, experts said that this is likely a huge underestimation of the full cost, as factors such as the occupation of test sites are not taken into account.

Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University and a vocal critic of the testing program, said, “The clear message from the data is that the mass tests are arbitrary, fragmented, incoherent and absolutely the opposite of public health.”

And she urged universities to stop the asymptomatic tests and instead focus on testing those with symptoms, especially when students return to campus and the prevalence of COVID drops to low levels.

Jon Deeks, professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham and head of the Cochrane Collaboration’s COVID-19 test evaluation activities, points to data from the English Test and Trace service which suggests the cost of asymptomatic testing in schools can be as high as 120,000 Could be GBP per case found and said it was critical that the Department of Health and Welfare publish an analysis of the data it was collecting from universities in England.

Angela Raffle, Bristol University public health advisor and volunteer lecturer who has worked for the UK’s National Screening Programs since its inception in 1996, described the introduction of asymptomatic testing as a “missed opportunity”.

She said the whole thing was “a desperate exercise to get a cheap advertisement for number 10, to get rid of the Innova test mountain and to change the culture in this country so we start thinking about these regular tests for everyone.” ” is a worthwhile use of public funds, which it is not. “

The government informed the BMJ that it was up to the universities to determine their testing approach, but agreed to work with them to offer asymptomatic testing to all students on campus twice a week.

A government spokesperson said: “Protecting communities and saving lives are always our top priorities, and every pound we spend contributes to our efforts to keep people safe. University testing is an important pillar in reducing the risk of transmission and.” to give more students the opportunity to face themselves again. ” – study as safely as possible. “

A spokesperson for Universities UK said: “Testing lateral flow devices is not perfect, not a test. However, they are easy to use and provide quick results that allow universities to quickly identify highly infectious asymptomatic individuals who might otherwise have the virus Unknowingly spread it and help them take the right course of action. ”

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More information:
Covid-19: mass tests at British universities are arbitrary and unscientific, finds the BMJ Investigation Journal, BMJ (2021). DOI: 10.1136 / bmj.n848 Provided by the British Medical Journal

Quote: UK Universities Bulky COVID Tests Are Arbitrary and Unscientific. The BMJ study (2021, March 31) was accessed on March 31, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-03-mass-covid-uk-universities-haphazard. html

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