Expect a gleeful media pile-on as another SNP target is apparently failed.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call this an opinion piece. I’m less certain than that by some way. Like Prof Pennington, I too am not a virologist, I’m getting on a bit and haven’t worked for some time but my contrarian nature just senses that the almost uniform support for mass testing, expressed by experts and mainstream media, might require some examination. So, sensing cracks under my feet, here we go.

These comments from Doyin Odubanjo, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Academy of Science, caught my eye at the end of March:

I would argue that we should not just follow the admonition of the WHO to “test, test, test” without examining it in the context of our local peculiarities. Testing is important but countries should adapt guidelines for testing that work for them, knowing also the dangers of having asymptomatic disease spreaders – that is those who have the virus but aren’t showing any symptoms. They should also consider reporting confirmed cases along with their clinical status as well as recoveries and discharges (all to encourage reporting of possible cases). The bigger worry is the fatalities and that is what countries must work to avoid. Lastly, lock downs must be considered – the socio-economic challenges weighed into it – as a means to minimise the spread in the face of limited facilities. This would allow those who might require hospital admissions to show up, while those who don’t will stop spreading the disease while they recover on their own.


The part emboldened above seems to capture just what the Scottish Government has done with some success, judging by the trends in the number of cases, the number hospitalised and the number dying in hospitals. The number dying in care homes is not yet proven to be the result, only, of a lack of testing. Wider failures, perhaps inherent in profit-based care, are emerging.

With only 11 000 cases so far out of a population of 5 400 000, (0.2%) is it possible that the massive cost, in terms of resources and staffing, of trying to test enough of those to then control the whole population is just not possible and would weaken the other strategies?

Even if we could do it, might the exercise lead to a degree of unhelpful panic among those not yet tested, on the one hand and, on the other, dangerous over-confidence in those who have tested negative one day but who might, on the very next, become infected and begin to spread it themselves. Is this happening right now in Germany, lauded for its testing level, and now fearing a second wave as it tries to come out of lockdown, informed by its testing?

OK, I’ll stop there. Over to you.