Nightclubs and theatres could reopen with help of rapid Covid tests, Boris Johnson says

Quick-turnaround lateral flow tests have raised concerns over false negative readings

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 15 February 2021 17:56
Rapid Covid tests could be used to reopen theatres and nightclubs, Johnson says

Rapid-turnaround coronavirus tests could be used to allow the reopening of nightclubs and theatres, Boris Johnson has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson again ruled out the use of “vaccine passports” as proof of immunity for people who want to go into pubs or entertainment venues.

But he indicated that once vaccination is widespread in the community, he believes there is a role for lateral flow tests, which provide results within minutes, to permit access to the destinations where social distancing rules are hardest to maintain.

His comments are likely to raise alarm among critics who say that, while lateral flow tests have shown themselves able to pick up some asymptomatic cases of Covid-19, they have also produced many false negative readings, giving individuals a false sense of security about their freedom from the virus. 

Recent results from Public Health England have shown the test’s overall sensitivity to be as low as 76.8 per cent - meaning that 23.2 per cent were false negatives - dropping to just 57.5 per cent when carried out by self-trained staff at a track and trace centre.

Mr Johnson said future months could see lateral flow tests being increasingly used for “the toughest nuts to crack, such as nightclubs or theatres or those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”.

He said: “I think that will be the route that we that we go down and that businesses will go down.

“You’re already seeing lots of businesses using the potential of rapid on-the-day testing as well. I think that in combination with vaccination will probably be the route forward.

“But I want to stress to everybody, it is still early days, with lots of discussions still to be to be had.”

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