Pilot Season: Trials Underway to Begin New Era in Pandemic Response
“If this strategy is proven effective it will likely lead to a more acceptable means of controlling COVID-19.”
This is what David Heymann, chair of the World Health Organisation’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group, said of the UK’s newest attempts to update our response to the pandemic, The Guardian reports.
A set of trials have been ongoing over the past few weeks to determine whether rapid testing might reduce – or, even, eliminate – the need to self-isolate for those who have recently been in contact with the infected. Many of us have experienced the panic and inconvenience of that notification from the NHS’ Test and Trace app: ‘You have recently come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Please self-isolate immediately for 10 days.’ It’s like something out of Soylent Green. The message is chilling partly because of the uncertainty. Who was it? Do I have it? What do I tell my boss? But after the confusion and the scrambling for a test appointment, you were hit with the realisation that even if you don’t have it, you are, by law, required to continue isolating. In the end, you were left with frustration, no recourse for appeal or, often, compensation.
Of course, this rather clunky and rigid measure stemmed from a scientist’s trepidation towards the test results. Maybe, they thought, the test didn’t pick this one, but we’re certain that this patient has been in contact with an infected person, so best to err on the side of caution.
And yet, as hospitalisations fall, this level of caution seems to be becoming counterproductive. Indeed, the system seemed to be falling apart, with only 50% of the symptomatic saying that adhered to self-isolation, according to one study. As ever, flexibility was the order of the day.
As a result, the government have been trialling the use of rapid tests on those who have come into contact with infected people in order to phase-out the blanket response of self-isolation. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has articulate the ethos of the plan, stating that:
‘Modelling indicates that daily testing of contacts of confirmed cases of Covid-19 may offer a supplement or alternative to quarantine strategies. In some scenarios, daily testing offers a similar level of effectiveness to quarantine in reducing transmission.’
Indeed, this effectiveness is a result of this renewed focus on flexibility, doing away with one-size-fits-all measures to give Britons greater control over their lives. If the trial is successful, contacts of the infected can exit self-isolation as soon as their daily rapid test returns a negative. Not a moment more than necessary. The Prime Minister’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, captured these sentiments: ‘…rapid testing is allowing us to get back to doing the things we all love.’
If you’d like to get back to doing the things you love, take a look at our range of rapid tests on our online shop.