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News

Rapid Covid testing in England may be scaled back over false positives – The Guardian

Senior government officials have raised “urgent” concerns about the mass expansion of rapid coronavirus testing, estimating that as few as 2% to 10% of positive results may be accurate in places with low Covid rates, such as London.

…However, leaked emails seen by the Guardian show that senior officials are now considering scaling back the widespread testing of people without symptoms, due to a growing number of false positives.

…On 9 April, the day everyone in England was able to order twice-weekly lateral flow device (LFD) tests, Dyson wrote: “As of today, someone who gets a positive LFD result in (say) London has at best a 25% chance of it being a true positive, but if it is a self-reported test potentially as low as 10% (on an optimistic assumption about specificity) or as low as 2% (on a more pessimistic assumption).”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/15/rapid-covid-testing-in-england-may-be-scaled-back-over-false-positives

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News

Role of Sage to be reviewed over fears scientists hold too much power – The Telegraph

A future independent inquiry into the handling of coronavirus is expected to scrutinise Sage and consider whether such a monolithic body should hold so much power. Members of Sage have themselves expressed concern that the group holds too much sway over ministerial thinking and prevents alternative views being given equal weight. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/03/15/role-sage-reviewed-fears-scientists-hold-much-power/

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News

Test and Trace is paying Deloitte nearly a million pounds every day – The London Economic


Dido Harding’s Test and Trace system is splashing out nearly a million pounds every day to private consultancy firm Deloitte, newly-released government figures have revealed.

David William’s, a top-ranking civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), told MPs on Monday that 900 of the firm’s consultants were currently employed – at a rate of £1,000 per day.

The disclosure of the astonishing level of expenditure comes after parliamentarians were told that DHSC expected to spend £15 billion on coronavirus in the next three months on testing alone – particularly the rollout of controversial rapid testing – to tackle the pandemic. 

https://archive.is/SmsI5

Original URL: https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/politics/test-and-trace-is-paying-deloitte-nearly-a-million-pounds-every-day/19/01/

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News

One in five in England have had Covid, modelling suggests – The Guardian

One in five people in England may have had coronavirus, new modelling suggests, equivalent to 12.4 million people, rising to almost one in two in some areas.

It means that across the country as a whole the true number of people infected to date may be five times higher than the total number of known cases according to the government’s dashboard.

In some areas, however, the disparity may be even greater. Parts of London and the south are estimated to have had up to eight times as many cases as have been detected to date.

The analysis, by Edge Health, reveals that the true number of coronavirus infections in England could be as high as 12.4 million, equivalent to 22% of the population, as of 3 January.

https://web.archive.org/web/20210110190150/https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2021/jan/10/one-in-five-have-had-coronavirus-in-england-new-modelling-says

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News

Top scientific advisers rake in £400k: Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance are earning a fortune during Covid-19 pandemic and have appeared on the list of best-paid civil servants for the first time – Daily Mail

  • Professor Chris Whitty is paid between £205,000 and £210,000, it was revealed 
  • Meanwhile the chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance is on up to £185,000
  • Thirty officials at soon-to-be scrapped Public Health England earn more than £150,000

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9061223/Top-scientific-advisers-rake-400k.html

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News

England’s Covid test and trace relying on inexperienced and poorly trained staff – The Guardian

England’s test and trace service is being sub-contracted to a myriad of private companies employing inexperienced contact tracers under pressure to meet targets, a Guardian investigation has found.

Under a complex system, firms are being paid to carry out work under the government’s £22bn test and trace programme. Serco, the outsourcing firm, is being paid up to £400m for its work on test and trace, but it has subcontracted a bulk of contact tracing to 21 other companies.

Contact tracersworking for these companiestold the Guardian they had received little training, with one saying they were doing sensitive work while sitting beside colleagues making sales calls for gambling websites.

https://web.archive.org/web/20201214074621/https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/14/england-covid-test-and-trace-relying-on-inexperienced-and-poorly-trained-staff

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News

What they DON’T tell you about Covid: Fewer beds taken up than last year, deaths a fraction of the grim forecasts, 95% of fatalities had underlying causes… and how the facts can be twisted to strike fear in our hearts – Daily Mail

  • Despite the fearmongering, the number of Covid-19 deaths is significantly lower than the peak back in April 
  • Latest ONS estimate shows that in the week ending November 14, new infections were already levelling off 
  • GCHQ has embedded a team in Downing Street to provide Boris Johnson with real-time updates of Covid-19
  • Analysts will sift through vast amounts of data to ensure Boris Johnson has the most up-to-date information

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8971669/What-DONT-tell-Covid-facts-twisted-strike-fear-hearts.html

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Opinion

The Covid Physician’s true coronavirus timeline – The Critic

Our mission: save the NHS by neglecting ourselves and the NHS. I received numerous CCG advice and flow-charts on the coronavirus-centric mass processing of patients. Most of it was about whom not to see, and who could pass the pearly gates of the hospitals. Then there was the advice on the parallel IT and video-consultation medical industrial revolution: our new NHS normal.

…For clarity, the “D” in coronavirus means “disease”, the second “S” in SARS-CoV-2 means “syndrome”. In a sense, the WHO had already decided Covid-19 was a distinct disease entity caused by a novel coronavirus before characterising it as a syndrome called SARS-2, and before the naming of the virus as SARS-CoV-2. The importance of scientific syntax and semantics cannot be overemphasised. Such cognitive slip-ups trickle unnoticed into general parlance and may have fatal consequences for us as a species.

Without a definite cause, one cannot definitively conclude to treat anything in particular. Is Covid-19 a syndrome, a mixed bag of symptoms and signs that has been negligently and politically globally fast-tracked to a scientifically wrong conclusion? Is it, in practice, a conflation of different, distinct disease entities including influenzae, rhinoviruses, pneumoniae and other coronaviruses, not to mention other non-infectious phenomena?

https://thecritic.co.uk/the-covid-physicians-true-coronavirus-timeline/

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News

How teenagers ended up operating crucial parts of England’s test and trace system – The Guardian

 workers at the call centre who have been “upskilled” to this level are mostly school-leavers and students, with no relevant qualifications. While the job is officially advertised at between £16.97 and £27.15 per hour, they are all being paid the minimum wage, which means £6.45 for the 18- to 20-year-olds (most of them) and £8.72 for over-25s.

Serco issued an internal notice explaining this change, which was leaked to the press. From 21 October, it said, “a number of experienced agents from Serco and Sitel will assist with index case tracing”.

What it didn’t say is that some of these “experienced agents” are 18 years old. The “appropriate training” for the magical transformation to “experienced clinician”, my contact tells me, lasted four hours. It was conducted remotely, as they now work from home, and consisted of a PowerPoint presentation, an online conversation, a quiz, some e-learning modules and some new call scripts.

…People ask me, “is this a cockup or a conspiracy?”. The correct answer is both. The government is using the pandemic to shift the boundaries between public and private provision, restructure public health and pass lucrative contracts to poorly qualified private companies. The inevitable result is a galactic cockup. This is what you get from a government that values money above human life.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/28/england-coronavirus-covid-test-and-trace-teenagers

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Opinion

Is the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid? – The Spectator

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has gone back to Plan A, reviving his ‘protect the NHS’ message from March and now wears a facemask with those words on it. The Prime Minister is repeating the slogan. It’s  deeply controversial with senior doctors who fear that it discourages the sick from seeking help – which might explain the 28,000 excess at-home deaths over the last few months. The NHS is worried about this and has countered with its own advert, urging people to seek medical help. I looked at this in my latest Daily Telegraph column.

The NHS has learned much from the first wave of Covid. PPE equipment, for example, is now in bountiful supply. Basic medical techniques – better use of blood thinners, oxygen therapy, steroids etc – are having a big impact on survival rates. When Boris Johnson went into intensive care, his survival chances were about 50 per cent. Now, they would be closer to 70 per cent. The trajectory this time is nowhere near as daunting – the below graph shows the rise of Covid patients needing critical care. As the data shows, intensive care unit (ICU) usage is 13 per cent of what it was at the end of March. (These figures are from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre.)

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-likely-is-the-nhs-to-be-overwhelmed-by-covid-

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Opinion

An epidemic of failure: Test and Trace that doesn’t work, local lockdowns that don’t make sense, flu deaths counted as Covid-19… and an economy on the brink. We somehow made a crisis worse – Dr. John Lee, Daily Mail

  • The UK Government’s Test and Trace policy isn’t working and is worse than useless.
  • 40 per cent of those asked to name their recent contacts were unable to remember anyone.
  • The tests on which Test and Trace is based are highly unreliable.
  • Covid is a coronavirus and its symptoms are vague: a cough, a raised temperature, the loss of taste and smell — all of which overlap with the symptoms for flu and the common cold.
  • When the procedure goes wrong, it generates a ‘false positive’ result: it indicates an infection where none exists.
  • Even with long-established tests, we’d expect to see false positives in perhaps one per cent of cases. With this one, it could quite conceivably be 5 per cent or higher.
  • This means that if 300,000 tests are processed in a day, perhaps 15,000 or more will generate inaccurate reports of Covid-19 infection.
  • One positive is not necessarily the same as another, but the Government numbers don’t differentiate.
  • Last week, it was reported that just 1,800 out of 110,000 occupied beds in hospitals were taken up by Covid-19 patients.
  • It is likely that those who died were elderly and suffering from co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • But it is also possible that they died from something else entirely — such as flu.
  • The UK Government’s Test and Trace policy isn’t working and is worse than useless.
  • 40 per cent of those asked to name their recent contacts were unable to remember anyone.
  • The tests on which Test and Trace is based are highly unreliable.
  • Covid is a coronavirus and its symptoms are vague: a cough, a raised temperature, the loss of taste and smell — all of which overlap with the symptoms for flu and the common cold.
  • When the procedure goes wrong, it generates a ‘false positive’ result: it indicates an infection where none exists.
  • Even with long-established tests, we’d expect to see false positives in perhaps one per cent of cases. With this one, it could quite conceivably be 5 per cent or higher.
  • This means that if 300,000 tests are processed in a day, perhaps 15,000 or more will generate inaccurate reports of Covid-19 infection.
  • One positive is not necessarily the same as another, but the Government numbers don’t differentiate.
  • Last week, it was reported that just 1,800 out of 110,000 occupied beds in hospitals were taken up by Covid-19 patients.
  • It is likely that those who died were elderly and suffering from co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • But it is also possible that they died from something else entirely — such as flu.
  • Coronaviruses are as old as humanity and have resisted every attempt at a vaccine or a cure. One project to wipe out the common cold was funded for more than 40 years — and got nowhere.
  • Today’s flu vaccines are less than 50 per cent effective, and there is no chance whatever that a hurriedly developed Covid-19 vaccine could be anything like as good as that.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8808609/DR-JOHN-LEE-Test-Trace-doesnt-work-local-lockdowns-dont-make-sense.html

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News Opinion

COVID-19 and the false positive trap – Dr. Clare Craig, The Spectator

Current test results should not be automatically accepted as real

Imagine a world where COVID-19 has been eliminated. To be certain this is true, the government conducts regular tests at random. The number of positive results should be zero, right? Wrong. There will always be a proportion of cases tested that come back with a false positive test result. Thankfully, for COVID-19, the false positive rate is less than one percent of tests done. But it is not zero. It will be impossible for us to ever reach zero. Why? Because COVID-19 cannot be eliminated, even if it is likely to evolve to be more benign and become a seasonal problem like influenza.

https://spectator.us/covid-19-false-positive-trap-seasonal/

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News

Government paid reality TV stars to promote NHS Test and Trace – Sky News

Taxpayer money was used to pay social media influencers and reality TV stars to promote the NHS Test and Trace system, the government has admitted.

The Mirror cited a social media expert as saying the influencers would usually be paid between £5,000 and £10,000 for an ad post.

https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-government-paid-reality-tv-stars-to-promote-nhs-test-and-trace-12059587

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Opinion

Lockdown in north of England a ‘rash decision’ not backed up by data, Oxford professor says – Professor Carl Henegehan, The Telegraph

Imposing a widespread regional lockdown in the north west was a ‘rash’ decision which is not backed up by the data, an Oxford professor has claimed.

People in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were banned from meeting different households indoors, in a move that Matt Hancock, the health secretary said was ‘absolutely necessary.’

But Professor Carl Henegehan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford said the figures were skewed by delayed test results and when plotted by the date the test was taken showed no overall alarming rise.

“The northern lockdown was a rash decision,” he said. “Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.

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News

Government’s test-and-trace programme is illegal under GDPR – Computing

The government skipped essential data privacy impact assessments in its rush to get the system up and running

https://www.computing.co.uk/news/4017986/uk-test-trace-illegal-gdpr

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News

England’s test and trace programme ‘breaks GDPR data law’ – BBC

The Department of Health has conceded the initiative to trace contacts of people infected with Covid-19 was launched without carrying out an assessment of its impact on privacy.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) says the admission means the initiative has been unlawful since it began on 28 May.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53466471

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News

Coronavirus tests halted over safety fears, as Matt Hancock to make statement – The Telegraph

Coronavirus tests used by the NHS may be unsafe and have been halted, the Government has announced.

The Department of Health said the NHS Test and Trace service had been notified that some test kits produced by Randox Laboratories may not meet required safety standards. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/16/coronavirus-tests-halted-safety-fears-matt-hancock-make-statement/

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Opinion

Has the abuse of ‘test and trace’ started already? – The Spectator

Personal data is usually kept super-safe under onerous government restrictions – for the obvious risk of it falling into the wrong hands. But the pub landlord is less likely to have a data security policy, so it is easy to see how the list of drinkers can fall into the hands of a barman. Or even a customer. It gives an ominous new meaning to track-and-trace and undermines the basic privacy issues that this system raises.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/has-the-abuse-of-test-and-trace-started-already-

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Opinion

Opting out of NHS Test and Trace

According to government guidelines, the public will be asked to provide their names and phone numbers to the venues and businesses they visit from Saturday 4th July 2020.

Be aware that this is done on a voluntary basis. You are under no legal obligation to leave your details or provide correct information. The business should not refuse to serve you if you do not wish to provide your information.

The relevant section of the government guidelines is shown below.

Source: Department of Health and Social Care Guidance, 2 July 2020

The complete text for the guidelines can be found in a document that can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website: Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace

Information collected

If you choose to provide information as a customer, government guidelines state that only the following details should be collected:

  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group.
  • A contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people.
  • Date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time.
  • If a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer.

Booking and reservation information

The information you provide when making a booking or reservation may be shared with NHS Test and Trace. If you do not wish your details to be used for this purpose, you should inform the business that you wish to opt out of NHS Test and Trace.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

NHS Test and Trace is subject to GDPR. This means that the business is legally obliged to handle your details in accordance with the regulation. However, be aware that under GDPR, the business is not required to:

  • Individually inform customers about how their information will be used.
  • Seek consent to collect data from individual customers.

If in doubt, make sure you explicitly inform management that you are opting out and any details you provide should not be used for NHS Test and Trace.

Why you should opt out of NHS Test and Trace

While we cannot give you advice about leaving your contact details, we believe that opting out of NHS Test and Trace is the right thing to do. This is because:

  1. The tests for COVID-19 are known to be inaccurate, resulting in high false positives and false negatives.
  2. These inaccurate results may be used to justify local lock-downs which will have a severely negative impact on your area.
  3. You will be traced and told self-isolate if anyone you have been in contact with during your visit tests positive, even if it is a false positive.
  4. The tracing system rollout was rushed and did not complete mandatory privacy checks. NHS Test and Trace is facing a legal challenge because it does not have strong enough safeguards.
  5. Your data will be held for 20 years. There is no way to know how the information collected about you will be used by a future political administration.
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News

NHS Test and Trace faces legal challenge over privacy fears – The Telegraph

The Open Rights Group has reported the Test and Trace system to the Information Commissioner’s Office watchdog (ICO), sparking a fresh headache for ministers as they seek to prevent a second peak of Covid-19.

The group claims that the programme does not have strong enough safeguards for the sensitive health data that will be collected on potentially millions of people. It is also concerned about who will have access to the data, which is to be held for 20 years, and how it will be used in the decades ahead

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/06/03/nhs-test-trace-faces-legal-challenge-privacy-fears/