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Surge testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Barnet area of London
FILE PHOTO: The entrance to a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing centre is pictured in Barnet, London, Britain, April 14, 2021. REUTERS/John Sibley

(Updated: )

LONDON: Britain’s health ministry said on Thursday (Apr 17) there were no plans to halt rapid coronavirus testing, after the Guardian newspaper reported the programme may be scaled back in England because of concerns about false positives.

“With around one in three people not showing symptoms of COVID-19, regular, rapid testing is an essential tool to control the spread of the virus as restrictions ease by picking up cases that would not otherwise have been detected,” a ministry spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

“Rapid testing detects cases quickly, meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, and figures show that for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is fewer than one false positive result.”

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Citing leaked emails, the Guardian reported on Thursday that senior officials were considering scaling back the widespread testing of people without symptoms, due to worries about a growing number of false positives in places where COVID-19 rates are low, such as London.

The spokeswoman said regional models were based on too small a sample size to draw conclusions, adding “there are no plans to halt the universal programme”.

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Britain reported 2,672 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, government data showed, up slightly from 2,491 on Wednesday but taking the fall over the last seven days to almost 7 per cent compared with a week earlier.

A total of 32.44 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by Apr 14 and 8.51 million people had received a second dose.

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