Thursday, January 27

Requiring PCR Testing for Isolation Funds May Fail Legal Test, UK Officials Say | Health policy

Government attorneys have said that any legal challenge against having low-wage people undergo confirmatory PCR testing to gain financial support during isolation would have a high chance of success, The Guardian found.

Legal advice circulated within the UK Health and Safety Agency (UKHSA) is understood to advise that there is a risk of a challenge under the Equality Act.

The council puts the chance of any challenge to be successful between 50% and 70%. It says it could be argued that lower socio-economic groups would be disadvantaged by the decision to remove confirmatory Covid PCR testing for everyone, if low-paid people still had to obtain it to access payments of £ 500 for support during isolation.

“There is at least a medium-high risk of 50-70% of a successful challenge based on reasons of equality and rationality if we require that people have a confirmatory PCR to access TTSP [test-and-trace support] payments, ”says the council.

“This is because it disproportionately affects low-income people and if [lateral flow tests] are considered sufficient from a public health and fraud perspective, so to require all people to legally isolate themselves, then it’s hard to argue that they should then [need a PCR test to] get access to TTSP “.

A decision was announced this week to remove confirmatory PCR tests for asymptomatic people who test positive for self-reported lateral flow. The exception is low-paid people who want to request support payments from Covid, who must obtain confirmation due to the risk of fraudulent requests.

It was also announced this week that PCR requirements would be removed for travelers arriving in the UK, a move opposed by Health Secretary Sajid Javid on the grounds that it could delay the detection of incoming new variants. to the country.

The Guardian revealed this week that Jenny Harries, UKHSA director, had raised concerns about the disadvantage of low-wage workers due to changes to the Covid testing regime in England.

In a memo before Christmas, he highlighted a higher risk of false negatives for those with lower incomes forced to go to a testing center to ensure they receive Covid’s test and trace support payments of £ 500.

Harries wrote: “In periods of higher prevalence, abandoning confirmatory CRP would mean that people more likely to receive a false negative and therefore potentially become ill and then seek hospital care later and therefore is more likely to die. from lower socioeconomic groups who are also at increased risk for underlying health problems as additional risk factors. “

The government made the changes in part to ease pressure on the PCR testing system, while Covid case numbers are at an unprecedented level, and in part to allow people to start the clock on periods of isolation before.

However, there was also concern among public health officials that a confirmatory PCR was counterproductive due to the risk of false negatives.

Some experts have previously highlighted that there is still a reasonable chance that a person has Covid if they have a positive lateral flow followed by a negative PCR, and the PCR misses a positive result about one in 20 times.

The data prepared for Javid this month is understood to contain estimates that around 9,000 of the 195,000 confirmatory PCR tests taken in November in England were false negatives. Out of 20,000 negatives in total, this suggested that 45% of all negative PCR results after a positive lateral flow result were false.

In Wales, support payments are awarded for self-reported tests without the need for a confirmatory PCR.

It’s difficult to quantify the number of people affected, but the House of Commons library found that as of November, some 370,000 child support payments had been made.

That means around 1 million requests have likely been made because based on previous data, the success rate is estimated to be about a third.

The number of payments is likely to have risen again substantially during the latest wave of Covid.

The UKHSA declined to comment on the leaked advice.

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