Jackson Carlaw was by no means the only critic jumping on the testing data as an easy target by which to blame the SNP Government, as he preferred to call it.
All of the opposition parties and the MSM would use this data and blame the fact that not enough of our 5.4 million souls had been tested last week, on any death statistics they could get their hands on.
From the outset, I doubted the value of mass testing. I’d read about unreliability, failure with the asymptomatic cases, the need to retest frequently the negative cases and the risks of both complacency in the tested and panic among the untested but had not read anything authorative.
By chance, today, I came across this:
Coronavirus: as a health economist, I’m not convinced the case for mass testing stacks up by Professor Cam Donaldson, Yunus Chair and Pro Vice Chancellor Research, Glasgow Caledonian University: https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-as-a-health-economist-im-not-convinced-the-case-for-mass-testing-stacks-up-135257
It’s worth reading the whole thing but if you can’t or won’t, here are the key reservations Donaldson has about mass testing:
Beyond prioritising NHS and other key workers, we might ask, in pure cost-benefit terms, what is the point of following the World Health Organization’s “test, test, test” mantra? South Korea, which is characterised as a country engaged in mass testing, has conducted only 400,000 tests, or the equivalent of around a third of NHS staff – which puts into perspective what is really achievable.
In any case, South Korea acted much earlier and combined testing with isolating infected people and rigorously tracing whoever they had been in contact with. None of this looks feasible in the UK. Mass testing would also further divert nursing and laboratory resources from other much-needed care activities, so this must also form part of the equation.
Alternative finger-prick tests are being developed to test for viral antibodies – in other words, whether people have been infected. The UK claims to have ordered 3.5 million kits, and there is talk of five times as many by mid-April. They are even being offered for private sale, but what purpose does this serve? They are cheaper and can be self-administered, but they are also much less reliable than RT-PCR tests. This again raises the disastrous prospect of people falsely testing negative, and thinking they are free to wander about in public.