The Prime Minister visited De Montfort University in Leicester where he took the swab test and spoke to staff carrying out the testing efforts, but experts and citizens have cast doubt over the scheme’s efficacy. The tour came as researchers found the Optigene Direct RT-Lamp tests missed more than half of positive cases in a trial in Manchester.
Professor Jon Deeks from Birmingham University, a member of a working collective of the Royal Statistical Society, raised concerns about the “real issues” presented by the test.
Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “At the moment, if you were bought this test, you would not be using it for this purpose.
“There are real issues in what people are being told in these studies.”
Professor Deeks said there was no clarity as to what the three tests they passed entailed.
He also claimed there was no proof of how well they performed.
In September, Professor Deeks told The Telegraph the market for new COVID-19 tests is a ‘Wild West’ and it should be more thoroughly regulated.
He said: “We have changed the laws for drugs over the years – usually at the point when they have killed people by accident and when we realise that the legislation is not protecting the public.
“I think this is what we need to be doing right now for tests.”
He added: “We’ve got a ‘Wild West’ type of approach to things at the moment.
“The government is trying to make us hope that things will get better, so they are pushing out stories about new testing technology which are optimistic and not always accurate. At the same time, some companies are doing the same thing.”
Although the tests are not proven to be dangerous, implementing the new tests without adequate scientific research could lead to bigger-scale problems, he said.
Professor Deeks added: “If you tell people they haven’t got COVID when they have, they won’t isolate and will potentially infect lots of people.
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“And if you tell them they have [COVID-19] when they haven’t, they will self-isolate.
“Individually that’s probably not such a bad thing, but if you tell lots of people wrongly to isolate, you end up with substantial economic harm.”
Meanwhile Liverpool is carrying out mass-swabbing efforts in a bid to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The city’s rapid test spell is part of the Government’s Operation Moonshot, where everyone is urged to get tested whether they present symptoms or not.
David Colbran, who took the test, told MailOnline: “It’s a shambles, we booked an appointment to have a test for people with no symptoms but half the people here queuing up have symptoms and it’s not until you get to the first person in hi-vis that they ask you if you have symptoms and you realise you have been stood with people who have symptoms for over an hour.
“Some people have just turned up without an appointment and others have booked so it seems you can do both.”
Another of those tested, Joanne Topping, added: “The staff don’t seem to know what is going on. Obviously you have to understand that there will be teething problems but there’s no fluidity or organisation based on whether you’re here for the Operation Moonshot testing or the regular testing because you have symptoms.
“It seems you can both book a test and just walk up to get one as part of the mass testing that the army are doing, but those that have booked a test are being processed quicker. People don’t mind waiting too much but we have already been here for an hour and haven’t moved.”