Epidemiologist Julian Peto is advocating mass testing as the key part of a plan to stop the virus spreading. Studies where everyone has been tested have picked up asymptomatic cases. With the addition of isolation and contact tracing this method of testing has been able to massively reduce the spread of the virus. The hope is such a coordinated scheme implemented nationally could help bring the numbers down. There’s a question over which type of test is best to use for mass testing. At the moment many of us do lateral flow tests at home. Although they give instant results their accuracy has been shown to be strongly linked to how well the tests are conducted – hence the need to back up any positive findings with the more accurate PCR test.
PCR takes longer and needs sophisticated lab equipment. However a compromise could be to use RT Lamp tests, they are accurate, give results in around 20 minutes, do require a very basic lab, but without the expensive equipment of PCR. A number of RT lamp tests have now been developed for SARS-Cov2. Kevin Fong has been to see the developers of one of them, the OxLAMP test.
And with the lifting of restrictions how are you going to judge your own personal risk from Covid?
It’s a question that interests philosopher of science Eleanor Knox. She says government mandates on mask wearing and social distancing have allowed us to avoid tricky questions around our own potential risk from the virus and risks our own behaviour might pose to loved ones. Now there’s a lot more to think about in terms of balancing our desires to return to some semblance of normality while levels of Covid infection continue to rise.
Listen to this broadcast from BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science, here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000xtb6