Over the last few weeks, primary and secondary schools have been reopening. In the coming weeks, many teenagers will also go off to universities. It has been estimated that three children in a thousand will walk into the classroom with COVID-19. And no one will know until the school has to be closed on account of an outbreak.
This is a risk that affects your children. And in turn, this becomes a risk to many of the older people in their lives, including you and your loved ones.
Perhaps, as they have done so far, the government will continue to respond to these outbreaks with local lockdowns or increased restrictions on social gatherings outside of educational institutions.
But what about prevention?
A rising number of immunologists have been excited to discover that rapid tests can provide precisely this.
A rapid test tells you whether you have COVID-19 in under 15 minutes and can be done by you at home.
Simply, take a nasal swab. Place it in the test tube and add the buffer solution. Then, place the strip in the solution and wait 15 minutes for your results.
By testing yourself and your family regularly, you will be made aware of your infection-status as soon as possible, regardless of whether you have symptoms. It is precisely this capability which could make rapid testing one of the most effective tools that we have to mitigate the dangers of the COVID-19 virus.
But, I hear you say, rapid tests are inaccurate, right?
Well, think about it like this. Before you become infectious, you need to have a certain amount of viral material – that’s the stuff of the virus, all its replications – in your body. In other words, you need to pass a certain threshold before other people can catch the virus from you.
Some researchers were worried about rapid testing because it couldn’t detect the smaller amounts of the virus, the amounts below that threshold. Soon, however, they realised that it reliably detected those amounts above the threshold. Put simply, if you’re infectious, a rapid test will give you a positive result.
So, a rapid test tells us exactly what we need to know. But the NHS already provides accurate tests, so why do we need rapid tests?
You can probably guess the answer if you’ve already taken an NHS test: you have to wait at least 48 hours for your results. Even the new tests, lauded for their speed, take 90 minutes and require you to travel to an NHS drive-through centre. If you saw our last blog, you’ll also know that this system is crumbling. A rapid test, however, can be conducted wherever you are and delivers results in just 15 minutes.
So, rapid testing is convenient, easy-to-use and gives precisely the results that we need. OK, but what am I asking you to do?
First, share this blog post with colleagues, friends and family members. Dispelling the myths and misconceptions around rapid testing is an essential first step.
Then, I urge you to use whatever influence you have to call on the government and the Prime Minister to consider daily rapid testing for all schools, colleges and universities in order to prevent further lockdowns and restrictions. We must act now to ensure the health and stability of Britain.