Govt Advisor: As little as 2% of positive Covid tests are accurate

A adviser to Matt Hancock has warned that as few as two per cent of positive Covid lateral flow test results taken in low prevalence areas are accurate.

In emails, leaked to the Guardian, senior strategist Ben Dyson warned health department colleagues about the unreliability of lateral flow test results.

Mr Dyson, who is an executive director of strategy at the health department and one of health secretary Matt Hancock's advisers, has raised concerns that the reliability of positive results could be as low as two per cent in certain areas.

In his email, Mr Dyson wrote: 'As of today, someone who gets a positive LFD result in (say) London has at best a 25 per cent chance of it being a true positive, but if it is a self-reported test potentially as low as 10 per cent (on an optimistic assumption about specificity) or as low as 2 per cent (on a more pessimistic assumption).'

The shocking email was sent on 9th April, just four days after Boris Johnson had announced a multi-billion pound plan for a mass-testing drive throughout the UK using lateral flow tests.

Under the plan, every Briton will have access to kits to test themselves twice a week.

Announcing the plan, Mr Hancock said: 'Reclaiming our lost freedoms & getting back to normal hinges on us all getting tested regularly.' 

Mr Dyson's fears are based on data which shows that as the number of cases goes down in an area, the number of false positive results - which wrongly tell people they have Covid - stays roughly the same.  

This means the ratio of false positives to true positives increases.

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