On 3 June SAGE published a briefing paper on the ‘Impact of false-positives and false-negatives in the UK’s COVID-19 RT-PCR testing programme’. This estimated that ‘under laboratory conditions’ RT-PCR tests ‘should never show more than 5% false positives’. qna.files.parliament.uk/qna-attachment…
1. However, this is under ‘idealised testing’ conditions, and the authors warn that ‘in a clinical or community setting there may be inefficient sampling, lab contamination, sample degradation or other sources of error that will lead to increased numbers of false positives’.
2. Incredibly, given that it is on these tests that the coronavirus crisis has been manufactured, they admit that they have been ‘unable’ to find any data on the operational false positive rates in the UK COVID-19 RT-PCR testing programme, which is, they conclude, ‘unknown’.
3. But based on data published in 43 external quality assessments for RT-PCR assays for other RNA viruses carried out between 2004-2019, they estimate that the median false positive rate for RT-PCR tests is 2.3% (with an interquartile range 0.8-4.0%).
4. However, this is in idealised laboratory conditions and on patients with a high viral load, not in the makeshift tents in which the Government is rolling out its Pillar 2 testing programme of the wider community administered by staff with unknown training and qualifications.
5. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, in the week ending 13 November the proportion of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 in England is an average of 1.2%, with the highest rate of 2.2% in the North West.
ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulati…
6. If the Government met its target of 100,000 RT-PCR tests per day, an average of 2,300 results would be false positives. Currently, an average of 1,200 per 100,000 are testing positive, meaning well over 100% of results are false positives.
7. However, even at the lowest FPR of 0.8%, which could only be produced under 'idealised' laboratory conditions testing individuals with a high viral load, at least 800 of these 1,200 positives, or two-thirds of the total, would be false.
8. But even in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber, where 2.2% of the population is testing positive, the average false positive rate of 2.3% with RT-PCR tests means that 100% of these positives are false.
9. The authors of the briefing paper for SAGE concluded: ‘Unless we understand the operational false positive rate of the UK’s RT-PCR testing system we risk overestimating the COVID-19 incidence, the demand on track and trace, and the extent of asymptomatic infection.’
10. Yet it's by this 100% false positive rate of infection with SARS-CoV-2 and the consequent overestimation of asymptomatic transmission that the current lockdown of the UK has been justified. This isn't data being used to justify policy. This is SAGE ignoring its own science.

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More from @9thfloor

19 Nov
After months of delay, during which it was refused by the Lancet, the NEJM and the JAMA, the first and only randomised controlled trial on the effects of wearing a mask to protect us from a virus was finally published yesterday in the AIM. And guess what?
acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M2…
‘The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates, some degree of social distancing, and uncommon general mask use.’
Unlike observational studies of mask wearers reporting their 'possible' benefits in encouraging 'compliance', this is the first Randomised Controlled Trial, in a study of over 6,000 individuals, making it 'the highest quality scientific evidence' to date.
spectator.co.uk/article/do-mas…
Read 5 tweets
18 Nov
The collaboration of the middle classes with the UK biosecurity state is a testimony to the role the world of letters plays in articulating — through that strange rule-book of behaviours called ‘class’ — what its members should and shouldn’t say and do.
architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2020/11/12/the…
'We must comply immediately with whatever measures competent public health authorities urge us to take, even if they seem disproportionate. It’s time to increase "social distance" in all sorts of ways.' — Rupert Beale, Francis Crick Institute.
lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/…
‘Few believe Johnson is an Anglo-Orbán, eager to use the crisis to institute rule through decree.’ — James Butler, co-founder of Novara Media.
lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/…
Read 11 tweets
18 Nov
Odd that a Ministry whose policy of outsourcing the repair and safety of social housing to private contractors culminated in Grenfell, should illustrate their White Paper with a photo of the campaign to save Macintosh Court from being run into the ground by private contractors.
The (uncredited) photo by @sammellishphoto was taken at the event ASH organised in 2016 to celebrate saving the sheltered housing from demolition by @lambeth_council and redevelopment as private residential property, showing the estate's architect @macintosh_kate with residents.
The event was part of Open Garden Estates, which ASH ran between 2015-17, and was hosted by 16 estates across London, drawing attention to residents' campaigns to save their homes from demolition, redevelopment and privatisation, mostly by Labour councils.
architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2016/06/21/mac…
Read 7 tweets
15 Nov
ONS estimates the percentage of the population in England testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 as of 3 November is 1.2%. That means for 100% of those positives to be false a PCR test needs a False Positive Rate of 1.2%. PCR tests have a FPR between 0.8% and 4%.
architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2020/11/12/the…
1. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests were not designed either to diagnose a disease or to test whether someone is infected or infectious. They were designed for forensic RNA trace analysis under laboratory conditions.
2. PCR tests have False Positive Rate of between 0.8 and 4 per cent even under ideal testing circumstances and on patients with a high viral load, let alone in the makeshift tents in which the Government is rolling out its Pillar 2 swab-testing programme of the wider community.
Read 13 tweets
15 Nov
Professor Van Tam, who Chairs the SAGE SPI-M subgroup, is a former employee of the Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche, on whose behalf he lobbied the World Health Organisation for human vaccines that made both Roche and GlaxoSmithKline billions.
1. Van Tam is a consistent supporter of pharmacological measures to address influenza. As head of the Pandemic Influenza Office at the UK Health Protection Agency in 2004-2007 he bears responsibility for decisions which were heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee.
2. You can read about the revolving door between public and private positions in the pharmaceutical industry in this article in the British Medical Journal. Van Tam's promotion of a vaccine for COVID-19 is what he's paid to do by the lobbyists he works for.blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2017/12/06…
Read 15 tweets
14 Nov
@DHSCgovuk Professor Van Tam, who Chairs the SAGE SPI-M subgroup, is a former employee of the Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche, on whose behalf he lobbied the World Health Organisation for human vaccines that made both Roche and GlaxoSmithKline billions.
@DHSCgovuk He is a regular attendee at conferences organised by the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI), a well known industry-funded lobbying group. His predecessor in the Chief Medical Officer post, John Watson, was a founding member of ESWI.eswi.org
@DHSCgovuk Van Tam is a consistent supporter of pharmacological measures to address influenza. As head of the Pandemic Influenza Office at the UK Health Protection Agency in 2004-2007, he bears responsibility for decisions which have been heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee.
Read 11 tweets

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