Mass Testing by the Army Turns Out to be a Good ThingWed 11:12 am +01:00, 11 Nov 2020
When the facts change, I change my mind.
I was initially sceptical about the roll out of the lateral flow test by the British Army in the City of Liverpool. Wasn’t this just another huge waste of taxpayers’ money (£43 billion and counting), with sinister, authoritarian overtones? But no. Turns out, the new tests are far more reliable than the shonky PCR test and the Army are much less likely to ignore the protocols stipulated by the manufacturers. And that’s good news – brilliant news – because it reveals just how few cases there actually are in Liverpool. Practically none, in fact.
I was alerted to this by Dr Clare Craig FRCPath and asked her to do a write-up of what she’d learnt for Lockdown Sceptics. I reprint it below in full.
The army has begun mass testing of the whole of Liverpool city in a desperate attempt to find cases. Despite being set to work diligently and efficiently, they appear to be failing to find the second wave of the pandemic that is currently supposed to be hitting Liverpool the hardest.
Astonishingly, this new test has only found 162 positives after testing 23,170 people, which is only 0.7%. These are almost certainly all false positives. Tests rarely ever manage a false positive rate lower than this. The army has demonstrated, accidentally, that there is no remaining Covid in Liverpool.
Could some of the positives have been real? No-one knows the real world false positive rate for the army test (or the PCR test). The manufacturers will always use clear cut examples for both negative and positive groups so their false positive rates tend to be underestimates. When tests are used in the real world they encounter ambiguous situations that result in higher false positive rates.
Serious questions have been raised about the false positive rate of the PCR tests resulting from laboratories under immense pressure. The evidence that the PCR tests are resulting in misdiagnosis due to false positive results has been published before.
Positive test results in Liverpool have been sharply declining since the beginning of October, while other parts of the North West have seen positive test results plateau. Because of false positive misdiagnoses there is still a persistent rate of allegedly Covid-positive patients admitted to hospital, in intensive care and even Covid being wrongly attributed as the cause of death. If Covid was really driving the admissions to hospital rather than false positive misdiagnoses, then there must be cases in the community for people to catch the virus. The Government therefore has a problem. Where have the missing cases gone? Have the people of Liverpool had enough and stopped co-operating with the testing programme?
The army has been called to mass test the entire city. They were so determined to find these cases that they decided to mass test schools without first seeking parental consent.
Instead of using swab tests with PCR, a much faster test was used. Previous tests have looked for RNA (the viral equivalent of DNA that viruses use to reproduce). The new test (lateral flow test) finds Covid proteins from which the viral particles themselves are made. The manufacturers claimed that these tests are very accurate although there were questions about whether they could find every case. On this measure the most obvious explanation for their apparent poor performance in finding cases was because most of the ‘cases’ found before with PCR testing were in fact false positives.
Even better, these results are going to be cross checked with “gold standard” PCR testing. The worst performing laboratories have a positive rate of 20% for PCR. So even in a worst case scenario only 20% of them will test positive in these laboratories which will drop the number they can claim are real Covid ‘cases’ even further.
The ONS carry out random population screening to determine how many Covid ‘cases’ there are currently in the population. They do this using PCR tests in the same laboratories as community tests which are therefore subject to the same serious false positive problems. For this reason, the regions with laboratories with the highest false positive rate have the highest ONS predicted case rate and the most ‘cases’ in community testing. The ONS predicted 2.2% of the population of the North West had Covid in the last week of October. Their prediction for the week of November 1st to 7th will be published on Friday 13th. Assuming the later prediction is not dramatically different to before, this means that the Army tests have shown only one third of the ONS predicted cases. The Government will be left with a choice when faced with the gap between the 2.2% figure from PCR testing and the 0.7% figure found by the Army using the new test:
- They could argue that cases fell by two thirds, from 2.2% to 0.7% in a week, and risk being proved wrong with the next round of ONS testing.
- They may claim that these new tests are missing two thirds of cases, and then be forced to abandon the new test as defective. They will then be left with the contradiction of there being no cases being diagnosed in the Liverpool community, but apparently continuing problems in hospitals where everyone is tested.
- They will have to admit that the 0.7% test is actually more accurate and that therefore there are serious problems with false positives from the PCR test results and finally start addressing those problems.
Every medical student has it drummed into them that they must treat the patient not the test results. The Government needs to take a look at the nation as a patient and stop treating the tests. Symptom trackers show symptoms back at baseline; accident and emergency attendances for acute respiratory infections are below normal, hospital admissions, intensive care bed use and hospital mortality figures are all normal for the time of year. The patient is better, but the treatment is toxic and it has to be stopped.