Tag: Rapid testing

Madrid Goes Rapid: How Spain Is Fighting Its Second Wave

A number of European countries have been hit by a second wave of COVID-19 infections – including, unfortunately, the UK – but Spain has been hit the hardest. Today, the Prime Minister will lay out his plans for the next stage of the UK’s response, rumoured to include a ‘three-tiered lockdown system’ that will devolve greater powers to local government, but chances are it won’t include the sorts of measures that the Spanish government are pursuing in infection-hotspots like Madrid

Madrid has become one of the first major cities in the world to attempt rapid testing on a large scale. In certain neighbourhoods with climbing infection rates, like Entrevías, residents are contacted via text to attend a drop-in clinic. Local authorities intend to test as many people as possible in these areas. When residents arrive at the clinic, an external temperature reading is taken with a non-contact infrared thermometer (like the one included in our Return2Work kit).

This is an unexpected feature of the scheme but the logic is clear. Taking the patient’s temperature will give the authorities information about their condition which might not be captured by the rapid test. For example, the patient may return a negative test but still have a temperature indicative of infection, meaning that the patient may indeed have COVID-19 but as yet remains non-contagious. This may mean that they will have to return the following day for another rapid test to track their progress, as well as receiving a more comprehensive PCR test from a local hospital to see if they have contracted a smaller amount of COVID-19. It also means that the margin for error in the test’s 93% accuracy-rate might be curbed by giving an indication as to when a patient might have received a false negative.

Once inside the drop-in clinic, a nasal swab is taken by a trained volunteer, placed in the buffer solution to settle and then squeezed onto the cassette. The resident then waits just 15 minutes for the results. Depending on the result, the resident may be free to return to work or must self-isolate – which potentially means that those they live or have had significant contact with must do so, as well. 

We will have to watch cautiously over the next few weeks to see whether this programme is able to curb the infection rates in Madrid. But by any reasonable estimate, it seems highly likely to do so. With these tests being so cheap at just €5 (or £4.50), the authorities can test huge numbers of people, detecting infectious residents as soon as possible, even if they are asymptomatic. Similarly, it also identifies safe residents, allowing local business to continue its recovery where possible, so that those who have to self-isolate are supported by a network of those who currently do not. 

It’s important to remember this, however: we have known that such a scheme was possible for months. Britain should have been the first to implement one, not Spain. 

We must be next.

To view our range of products for COVID-19 protection, including our rapid test kits, take a look at our online shop

How To Prevent Another Lockdown

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.

Testing Times: Why There’s a Testing Shortage and How to Fix It

On Tuesday, the BBC Breakfast ran a report on the government’s COVID-19 testing initiatives in the UK. It was pretty damning.

The main take-away from the report was the link between test shortages and staff shortages. This link should be considered from two perspectives. Firstly, test shortages in the NHS have forced Trusts to cut down on staff and volunteers who are not needed. Of course, this decision has only increased the workload for remaining staff – for example, NHS technicians processing the tests have complained about the lack of staff, claiming that it has only aggravated extant problems and contributed to increased waiting times for patients. Relatedly, known problems with the accessibility of drop-in test centres have been deepened by the shortage, with some patients being forced to drive up to 100 miles to find an operative centre. 

Secondly, such failures within the NHS have had rather troubling effects on the general population’s ability to work. Increased waiting times and lack of accessibility, all caused by or intensified by the general lack of tests, have meant that those with symptoms who have been requested by their workplace to get tested will spend longer off work. Paired with the localised lockdowns in various areas of the country, these hiatuses will be hindering what had previously appeared to be a somewhat promising economic recovery. 

In their desperation to return to work, many Britons have turned to the private sector. Nevertheless, the vast majority of these tests remain priced outside the average person’s budget, mostly because of the type of tests available. 

However, rapid testing, which has seen an upsurge in support from the scientific community in recent months, is cheap, and it delivers results in just 15 minutes – a time to which no other type of COVID-19 test even comes close.

For a number of months on this blog, I have been advocating for the NHS to switch to rapid testing. Rapid testing has an advantage over PCR testing in all the areas that the latter is currently failing. Firstly, rapid tests can be mass produced on a superior scale at lower costs. Secondly, the test does not require expert processing, freeing up the overworked laboratory technicians that currently keep the PCR testing programme running. This also means that far more tests can be done by the patients themselves at home, easing the pressure on drop-in centres. 

If these reforms could be implemented, we might see an end to unnecessarily long wait times and a rejuvenated NHS, better equipped to deal with the ongoing pandemic. If we are to continue our steady recovery from lockdown, it seems essential that this is done, and quick. 

If you are in need of a rapid test, take a look at our product range on our website

Rapid Testing and COVID-19: Why Are We Being So Sensitive?

As all of us absorb some of the more troubling aspects of the recent government announcements, we might not be able to avoid a sense of déjà vu. Just like at the end of March, the government is making decisions very quickly that will have a sizable effect the British public. Even more so, the government is pursuing the same line of response that they pursued back in March, leading some to question how far we have really come in our understanding of how to deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last few weeks, however, there have been a number of breakthroughs in the scientific community. These revelations concern the sensitivity of rapid testing, a topic that has been hotly debated in the months since lockdown began. For many, the fact that rapid tests were unable to detect antibodies and viral material below a certain threshold was a fatal flaw, further confirming the predominant use of PCR testing which can detect below this threshold.  

The problem lies in the fact that PCR tests – like those available on the NHS – take at least 48 hours to return a result. Given that the government advises those with symptoms to stay at home, this might mean that the patient misses two days of work at the least, which, as infections rise again, could threaten the financial stability of those already hit hard by the pandemic. Similarly, those interested in travelling might have to postpone or even cancel their plans if they experience symptoms at an inopportune time. Clearly, there is an incentive here for Britons to simply take their chances, to keep functioning in ignorance by not applying for a test or to apply for a test but make no adjustments to their behaviour while they wait for the results. In both cases, the delay inherent in PCR testing poses a problem for mitigating infection rates.

But, since rapid tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests, we have no other option but to continue with this line of response, right?

Well, Harvard immunologist Dr. Michael Mina has a strange yet simple answer (which he lays out clearly and concisely in a recent New York Times article): what if rapid tests are just insensitive enough to miss non-contagious or non-immune individuals who nevertheless have some tiny amount of viral material or antibodies? Put another way, what if a positive result from a rapid test gives us all the information that actually we care about: are we infectious/immune or not? 

Dr. Mina would answer in the affirmative. He does not dispute that rapid tests are less sensitive but still holds that they are more useful that PCR tests, since we are not interested in detecting any and all amounts of viral material or antibodies but only those amounts which make a patient contagious or presently immune. So, why are we being so sensitive?  Rapid testing offers the British public the power to make informed decisions at the pace of their lives. PCR testing interrupts their lives to give them information that they don’t need.

If you are interested in purchasing a rapid test, take a look at our online shop and our eBay page.

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