People avoiding Covid testing to dodge self-isolation, expert suggests

A government expert has suggested a lack of testing may be behind the decrease in positive coronavirus cases.

People may be refusing testing.

People may be refusing Covid testing to avoid self-isolation, a Government adviser from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (Spi-B) has warned.

Professor Robert West of the Spi-B has said that this refusal may account for the current difference between the UK’s high infection rate and decrease in positive coronavirus cases.

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At a glance: 5 key points

- The latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that Covid infections are at their highest level in England since January, and the highest since February in Wales.

- Daily testing figures contrast with this figure, showing that positive cases have fallen by 36% over the past seven days.

- Even after a lag in recording the ONS data had been accounted for, Prof West called the discrepancy between the figures “puzzling”.

- Prof West’s theory came after Labour launched a fresh offensive on Friday calling for the Prime Minister to bring forward the date when people who have been fully vaccinated can skip self-isolation.

- Boris Johnson said the August 16 date was “nailed on”, but opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer is pushing for the Government to follow Welsh Labour’s lead, with First Minister Mark Drakeford affording extra freedoms for the double-jabbed by August 7.

What’s been said

Prof West told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “One of the things that is a concern is that people may not be coming forward as they used to do for testing.

“One of the reasons for that may be that the messaging from the Government in a way has sort of given a bit of a green light to people to say, ‘well, it is not so bad if you get the infection’.

“(But) if you get tested you’re going to have to self-isolate, at least at the moment, and that’s going to be very disruptive. I suspect that may be a factor.”

Background

There has been much controversy in recent weeks over the “pingdemic” causing disruption by telling thousands to self-isolate through the NHS Covid-19 app.

The Government has responded by rolling out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, along with transport, waste collection and defence staff.

Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the NHS Covid-19 app or called by NHS Test and Trace as coronavirus contacts to continue working.

Additional reporting by PA.