Testing of students without symptoms of Covid should stop, suggests vaccine creator

Covid testing in places such as schools to find asymptomatic cases should stop, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has suggested.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard told Members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that it was “absolutely essential that we keep children in school”, adding that the greatest impact of the pandemic has been was the psychological effect of being forced to stay at home.

However, Professor Lucy Chappell, chief science adviser at the Department of Health and Welfare, said the government has committed to testing until at least January.

Professor Pollard told MPs: ‘Obviously the sheer amount of testing in schools is very disruptive to the system, whether it is the individual child who then isolates himself because he has been. tested positive but is doing perfectly well, or because of the concerns it raises more widely in school – we know families are taking their children away because someone has tested positive in a school.

“So I think widespread testing in schools has a huge impact.

Professor Andrew Pollard, Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group (PA)

“I think we probably have to move into the pandemic, this winter, maybe towards the end of the winter, to a completely different system of clinical trials.

“In other words, testing the people who are not doing well rather than having those people who are doing well tested on a regular basis, because that causes a lot of these actions to happen, especially in schools, if you have a lot of tests. asymptomatic. “

Sir Andrew said sick people shouldn’t go to school, “but that’s not the specific Covid problem”.

He added: “It is a general rule that if someone has the flu, they should be at home and not at school.”

He said it was “an inevitable future” not to “test at this rate for Covid forever”.

“So we need to think about how this transition works.

“There is clearly a lot more transmission right now and it adds extra pressure on the NHS as there are people going to hospital and more than before but I think we are improving the situation.”

He said the high vaccination rates and the booster program – as well as many infections in the younger groups who will have acquired immunity – mean “that at some point we will reach a more stable state with this virus which is probably more manageable ”.

He added that “the problem is that we don’t know exactly when this is happening and there may still be surprises around the corner.”

Also speaking to the committee, Professor Chappell was asked whether the nation should move away from testing asymptomatic people.

She said: “So in the short term I think we should continue testing, especially symptomatic individuals.

“And I know other groups are evaluating when we reconsider testing asymptomatic individuals beyond January, beyond spring.”

She added, “I would like to think that in five years we will not all be doing lateral flow testing.

“There is clearly a stretch point between these five years.”

She continued, “Between now and January, it’s clear that we are committed to testing.

“We then reconsider where we go beyond January, beyond spring.”

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