Government planning to drop Covid testing scheme for the vulnerable

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A major testing program used to quickly detect COVID-19 in the NHS, prisons, schools and social care could be abandoned next year, Granthshala has learned.

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Several senior sources have told Granthshala The government is now seeking to discontinue the national program for loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests from March 2022.

LAMP tests are much faster than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, can be commissioned within an hour, and are primarily used to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. There are. The test can also be performed directly on saliva, so unlike PCR tests, there is no need for swabbing, and is considered more accurate than lateral flow.


Experts have also said that the LAMP tests could be used to track new COVID-19 types of outbreaks, such as Omicron.

The program to introduce LAMP testing is aimed at prisons, schools, adult social care services and NHS hospitals and is managed by NHS Test and Trace, which is currently under the UK Health Protection Agency (UKHSA).

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According to sources, officials from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) this week did not extend national support for the program into the new fiscal year.

A national source said the decision was probably driven by funding priorities and the implications of the recent spending review.

He said the scheme’s cuts would particularly affect prisons and people with disabilities, adding: “Lamp is not very large in terms of the number of tests currently conducted, as it has not yet been widely launched.” , but its impact will be on the vulnerable and hence it raises the question of inequality.

“Discussions about cutting funding for lamp testing will utterly harm the most vulnerable in our society. People who are disabled and cannot perform invasive tests such as PCR can only use this type of test. This could particularly affect testing in special needs schools.”

An official with knowledge of testing in the prison system said: “It’s hard to explain how difficult and challenging it is to create a testing program in a prison or other secure environment. LAMP is an important route to this program, and it has benefits because it’s low. Is physically aggressive and quick.

“What is really needed is an environment where infections spread like wildfire and prisoner’s trust is integral and easily lost.”

an expert told Granthshala: “Through a PCR test you can make an ‘informed guess’ about whether a sample is likely to have a new omicron variant. However, to confirm this, you will need to undergo further sequencing which takes longer but can be done from the original sample.

“One of the benefits of the LAMP test, as opposed to lateral flow, is that you can do sequencing directly from the original sample that was submitted for saliva testing and so there’s no need to go back to people and get another sample.” No, delays all along. Those delays are problematic because if it’s a delay of several days and someone is contagious, they could have passed it on to others.

“Therefore, if you absolutely want to detect it as an omicron and prevent transmission, as UKHSA is trying to do at the moment, you need accelerated procedures which are usually accompanied by lateral flow tests. are not achieved.”

Another test expert echoed the saying: “The benefits of lamps are quick turns. There are very minor preparation steps and then reduced to 25 minutes on the detection apparatus because it does not require ‘thermocycling’ to achieve amplification like PCR.”

He said the reagent, a substance that causes a chemical reaction during the testing process for LAMP tests, could be ten times cheaper than PCR tests.

sources told Granthshala That for NHS hospitals, the target was to conduct tens of thousands of tests a week – between 20,000 and 30,000 in some areas. The “Superlab” in Southampton is the largest testing center for lamp samples and may also be decommissioned by DHSC, coming in March.

a source told Granthshala: “The constant talks about cutting down on testing capacity cannot go beyond what is helpful at the moment.

“There seems to be a determination to impose a time limit on the virus, rather than accepting that the course of the virus dictates a time limit.”

“Testing of all kinds is necessary given their respective benefits. Any link in the chain of contacts to society, from health care workers to prison visits, to schools trying to roll out jabs between breakouts with only testing can be broken.”

DHSC was contacted for comment.


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