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UK’s prime minister warns COVID-19 airport testing only 7% accurate

Boris Johnson based his statement on modeling done by Public Health England.
Fri Oct 23, 2020 - 2:13 pm EST
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom. shutterstock.com

LONDON, England, October 23, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said that only a small percentage of coronavirus tests performed at airports actually deliver accurate results.

During a BBC interview broadcast on September 4, the prime minister addressed the issue of airport testing replacing quarantines.

Johnson stated that “everyone thinks you can have some test at the airport that will answer whether you’ve got (the coronavirus) or not. Unfortunately, it only works in seven percent of the cases; 93 percent of the time you could have a real false sense of security, false sense of confidence when you arrive and take a test.”

The figure given is based on modeling done by Public Health England (PHE), which estimated that testing passengers only once upon arrival into the country would pick up just 7 percent of those who had the virus.

A second test, administered between five and 10 days later, would have an 85 percent or 98 percent chance, respectively, at identifying those who were supposedly infected. The model assumed that all the passengers in the scenario would be infected.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also talked about the statistics but appeared to interpret the figures differently. In an interview on Sky News, Raab stated that “the false positive rate is very high. It’s only 7 percent of tests that will be successful in identifying those who actually have the virus, so the truth is that you can’t just rely on that.”

While Johnson spoke of 7 percent accuracy relative to all tests performed, Raab seemed to imply that of all positive tests, only 7 percent would actually be accurate.

After the video was widely shared on social media, Reuters reported that Raab’s department clarified he meant that tests would only pick up 7 percent of positive cases of COVID-19. They referred back to PHE’s report as evidence.

However, more recently a study was published that disparaged PHE’s figures, as quoted by Johnson. Commissioned by a group of airlines and airports, Edge Health and Oxera Consulting released a report in which they claimed the PHE model “makes the assumption that 100 percent of the symptomatic as well as the asymptomatic passengers who are detectable at the time of boarding do not fly.”

Consequently, the report stated that the “widely quoted 7 percent excludes anyone who is in theory detectable or symptomatic before the flight takes off. This evidently isn’t the case, and it leads to an underestimation of the effectiveness of testing on arrival.”

Edge and Oxera said that “up to 63 percent of infected passengers attempting to enter the UK could be prevented from doing so with a testing scheme.”

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The conflicting figures regarding the effectiveness of airport testing, combined with calls to open up travel routes, has led to the development of the digital COVID passport, or “CommonPass.” The smartphone program is designed to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test in order to allow the passenger freedom of travel.

CommonPass is promoted by, among others, the World Economic Forum and the Rockefeller Foundation. A description on The Commons Project website states that the pass would allow “individuals to access their lab results and vaccination records, and consent to have that information used to validate their COVID status without revealing any other underlying personal health information.”

While only in a trial stage at London’s Heathrow Airport, the concept is being pushed in other countries, with Denmark releasing a version of the passport in July. The Danish system allows passengers to download a document that gives proof of having tested negative for the virus within the last seven days.

Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair even suggested the use of digital IDs as a means of assessing one’s “disease status,” so as to determine who can travel based on whether they are infected, are immune, or have had any future vaccine.

The American Civil Liberties Union strongly warned against such concepts, as they present “potential to harm public health, incentivize economically vulnerable people to risk their health by contracting COVID-19, exacerbate racial and economic disparities, and lead to a new health surveillance infrastructure that endangers privacy rights.”

Johnson caught the coronavirus in April and was treated for it in the ICU.


  boris johnson, commonpass, covid-19, dominic raab, testing, united kingdom

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