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COVID-19: Controversial rapid test policy divides doctors and scientists

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The UK government’s new policy of distributing rapid coronavirus tests to local authorities in England has divided the medical and scientific community, with some calling for the tests to be halted because they could falsely reassure people and increase the spread of COVID-19.

Critics are also concerned that the policy, announced on Sunday 10 January, was being rolled out without sufficient provision for people who test positive, such as putting them in hotels and compensating them financially. Supporters say the tests are a valuable additional tool in public health interventions to identify new cases and suppress further transmission.

Launching the new testing drive, England’s health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said, “With roughly a third of people who have coronavirus not showing symptoms, targeted asymptomatic testing and subsequent isolation is highly effective in breaking chains of transmission. Rapid, regular testing is led by local authorities who design programmes based on their in-depth knowledge of the local populations, so testing can have the greatest impact.”

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Source: BMJ, 12 January 2021

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