A HEALTH chief has admitted the accuracy of Covid tests aimed at getting thousands of students home safely for Christmas could be as low as 50 per cent.
National Clinical Director Jason Leitch said the sensitivity of new tech that delivers rapid results is “variable” depending on who is using it.
Prof Leitch revealed that in a worst-case scenario only half of positive cases would be found among the student population before they head home to family.
And he said even “in the best hands” only around 70 per cent of cases will be picked up.
Prof Leitch told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland show: “You won’t know if it’s a true negative but at least you’ve found some of them. There is an element of false reassurance . . . but this is the tech we have available. So until the tech gets better surely we should use the tech we’ve got.”
It came as experts warned of the dangers of relying on the new “lateral flow” tests — also being used for community screening in five virus hotspots — for mass screening.
Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney said the high false negative rate means a large portion of students who have Covid-19 will be missed.
She added: “My worry is people will have a negative test and get on with life as though they don’t have Covid. There might be vulnerable people at home. You can see what might happen.”
And Dr Allyson Pollock, a consultant in public health medicine, said she was “very worried” about the government’s use of “unevaluated” and “experimental” tests and called on ministers to pause them. She added: “It’s wasting billions of pounds.”
Up to 80,000 students are expected to travel home for Christmas.
They are being asked to take two rapid lateral flow device tests — where results return in ten to 15 minutes — three days apart.