As the country continues to deal with another wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has indicated that it shall avail free COVID-19 Tests for students.
All school-going and college students and their families are now able to perform home tests twice a week in the government-backed plan that is currently underway.
The plan was targeted to coincide with the reopening of schools from 8 March and has been in place since.
Logistically, the free tests are supplied by the government for use in various households. Free tests are also available to different child cares around the country and children’s support bubbles.
The supply of these kits is done regularly regardless of whether the recipients are asymptomatic or not.
Since their inception, Rapid Antibody test kits such as the Healgen Covid-19 Rapid Antibody Test have been used as home tests and have been vital in flagging asymptomatic persons.
Such kits were available on online stores even before the government- backed initiative and are still available for persons not covered under the government plan.
The government plan does not cover college-aged teens who do not attend school. The initiative strictly targets school-going kids exclusively.
Nonetheless, the free testing has been extended to cover adults working with the schools, such as teachers and drivers.
Although the government scheme is well intended, it is not without its challenges.
UK Students to Perform Their COVID-19 Tests; The Challenges Arising
According to the Health Secretary Mr. Matt Hancock, the government aims to roll out free regular testing of households within the student testing program.
That is meant to ensure that positive individuals can be isolated as fast as possible and placed on medication.
However, some experts warn that the move might do more damage than good.
Some of the challenges pointed out include:
- A high potential for human error
- Unknown effectiveness of the tests
- The likelihood of false reporting by some students
- The fact that it’s an elective process.
- A false sense of security where results are negative.
a) Human error
Experts such as Dr. Mike Gill, a former South East England director of public health, pointed out that the plan could have disastrous consequences.
In his view, having been on lockdown for close to a year, students might be tempted to give false results. All this to be allowed to integrate with their friends and colleagues.
Also, even with home testing, parents eager to see their children out the door and back to school might not keenly monitor the tests’ conduct.
There are also concerns regarding the likelihood of improper conduct of these tests by the students. After all, the process involves the insertion of a long cotton swab in the nasal passage, an undoubtedly uncomfortable situation.
What we need to remember, however, is that Britons are keen to be done with the pandemic. The benefits of regular testing far outweigh the challenges.
Long before the advent of free government testing, families have been undertaking Rapid Antigen home tests for a while now to stay on top of things. We invite you to visit handstations.co.uk and order your Covid -19 home test kit today.
b) Test efficacy
Concern has also been raised over the efficacy of the Rapid antigen or lateral flow tests.
Some of the chief reasons for this have been their propensity to record false-positive results and miss some asymptomatic cases.
Not only that, but due to comparison with the standard PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests, critics advance the notion that Rapid Antigen tests are less reliable.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, most of these assertions are borne more out of misinformation than facts.
It is to be remembered that the different kinds of COVID-19 tests have varied utility, and each is suitable for a specific objective.
Improper use or interpretation of results from one test does not render it any less efficient.
Rapid Antigen home tests are essential for quick results; compared to the PCR test, which may take up to two weeks to conclude.
Therefore, the lateral flow tests act as a placeholder that lets you know your COVID-19 status in the meantime.
In cases of persistently symptomatic persons who register negative results, they are advised to self-isolate and consult their physician.
Rapid antigen tests provide constant updates on your status and should be used as complementary tools to PCR testing.
c) False reporting
On the potential false reporting of results by some students, the scheme has received tremendous support from students so far.
The government has encouraged students to register for lateral flow tests through the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Going by the numbers that turned out to register, the students seem to be taking the matter into serious consideration.
At the University of Hull alone, thousands of students have registered for the government-sponsored Rapid Antigen tests so far.
d) Elective process
Lateral flow tests only take 15 minutes to conduct and do not need a laboratory to generate results.
They are a hassle-free method of telling an individual’s status on the go. Prior to the introduction of the government mass tests, most individuals were already purchasing home testing kits.
While it is an elective process, most families have demonstrated an unwavering willingness to be proactive in keeping safe.
According to statistics released by the DHSC website, the number of home tests taken up has increased from 19.9% to 42.2% between 19th -26 August 2020 alone.
That is an indicator of the seriousness that citizens have regarding the tests.
e) Negative results and false security
Lastly, there is also fear that false negatives might lull students into a false sense of security and that consequently, they might wind up regarding the tests as a silver bullet.
Information in the public domain regarding the virus indicates that immunity against coronavirus is yet to be proven- even among recovered persons.
Thus, it would be foolhardy for anyone, tested or not, to believe that they are above infection.