Coronavirus: surprisingly big problems caused by small errors in testing – The Conversation

In short, far more people will receive false-positive results than true-positive results. Up to 60% of those released back into the workforce could be at risk of infection themselves and unknowingly spreading the disease to others, sparking a second wave of the epidemic. If the true prevalence of the disease in the population is as low as 1% then this figure could rise to 80%.

Understanding the startling rates of false positives and false negatives for tests that seem, on the surface, to be quite accurate could have profound consequences for health policy as we travel deeper into this pandemic. Failing to do our mathematical due diligence has the potential to take us past the tipping point beyond which the epidemic starts to grow again, leading to even more avoidable deaths.