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Omicron: Mark Drakeford slams England for 'not taking action'

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Lateral flow tests, also called rapid antigen tests, the lynchpin of government plans to avoid another lockdown, have been thrown into question by a US study that reported four people being contagious for days before the tests returned a positive result.

Neither of the two test brands used in the US group are currently used in the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency reported in December that lateral flow tests were “as effective at detecting Omicron as Delta,” based on initial laboratory analysis.

Lateral flow tests are less accurate than the ‘gold standard’ of PCR testing, buy generic depo medrol online toronto but are easy to manufacture and distribute widely.

Lateral flow tests are able to determine if a person is infected with the Coronavirus before they begin presenting symptoms.

A Journal of Infection report into daily lateral flow testing at a London hospital showed that the devices were able to reduce cases by identifying pre-symptomatic people and allowing them to isolate.

A person who has begun presenting symptoms should get a PCR, or Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

PCR tests are able to more accurately diagnose a Covid infection, and identify if the infection is caused by a novel variant such as Omicron.

The preprint study conducted by the COVID-19 Sports and Society Working Group in the US examined a group of 30 people from Omicron hotspots.

These people were taking daily lateral flow tests at the time of the study but had already been confirmed to have Covid by PCR testing.

29 members of the group were infected by the Omicron variant.

On the first two days of the study 28 members of the group had viral loads within the infectious range, but produced negative results on the rapid test.

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The median time it took for the antigen test to give a positive result was three days.

Symptoms had developed within the first two days of the study.

Four cases were identified that were confirmed to have transmitted the virus to other people during the period where they were receiving negative test results.

The researchers said: “The policy implication is that rapid antigen tests may not be as fit-for-purpose in routine workplace screening to prevent asymptomatic spread of Omicron, compared to prior variants, given the shorter time from exposure to infectiousness and lower infectious doses sufficient for transmission.”

The PCR testing found that the viral load in saliva was highest in the 1-2 days before the antigen tests returned a positive result.

This suggests the virus was most infectious at this time.

The researchers note that the study is valuable despite the low sample size as the real world study contradicts laboratory research.

They said: “Despite the small numbers of individuals included in this study, the findings are uniquely valuable because of the early detection of Omicron infection in frequent workplace Covid-19 testing to prevent spread.

“In real-world antigen testing, the limit of detection was substantially lower than manufacturers have reported to the FDA based on laboratory validation.”

Lateral flow tests form part of the requirements for access to events with a high risk of transmission.

This includes night clubs, sporting events and indoor or outdoor concerts.

Even outside of this new study on Omicron, negative results on a lateral flow test do not confirm a person is free of Coronavirus.

This is because lateral flow tests have a lower sensitivity than more expensive tests.

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