Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton, clears up some of the false claims about the COVID-19 mass testing pilot…
Since COVID-19 affected all of our lives earlier this year, we have all seen a lot of rumours on social media, TV programmes and WhatsApp groups. These range from factual questions which everyone is right to ask about to outlandish theories which have no basis in reality.
As you’d expect, there has been some misinformation around the Liverpool mass testing pilot programme. In this blog, we’ll try to answer some of the false claims you may have seen.
Myth: COVID-19 is not real
FACT: The stark reality is that the total number of daily cases of the virus is going up. As of 12 November 2020, over 50 million cases have been diagnosed globally with more than 1.1 million fatalities. COVID-19 is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory and contact routes. Transmission risk is highest where people are in close proximity (within 2 metres).
Locally, rates are falling, but we know from our experience over the summer and into September that it doesn’t take much for the number of cases to increase rapidly, which then leads to acute pressure on our hospitals. COVID-19 is VERY real!
Myth: COVID-19 is the same as flu
FACT: COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu. While the range of symptoms for the two viruses is similar, COVID-19 is causing far more severe impacts on people. Data for COVID-19 points to the fact that, while 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe infection (requiring oxygen) and 5% are critical infections (requiring ventilation). These fractions of severe and critical infection are much higher than what is observed for flu.
Myth: The test is administered by the Army
FACT: You administer the test on yourself, there is no physical contact with anyone else. The Army is only there to support with the logistics, as otherwise we would not have enough staff to deliver this programme in such a safe, accessible way.
Myth: The test is painful
FACT: OK, this one is subjective but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s painful. You take a swab and rub it gently against your tonsils, then insert it lightly up one nostril – only about 1 inch, so not far enough to hurt. And that’s it – some people have found it mildly uncomfortable and some have not been bothered by it at all.
Myth: COVID-19 only affects the elderly
FACT: While the elderly are more susceptible to the most severe effects, the simple fact is that people of any age can and have died from COVID-19. Many younger people are vulnerable because they suffer from other conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis. And even if people are asymptomatic, they are liable to pass it on to people less able to cope with the effects of the disease.
MYTH: Kids are being tested without consent
FACT: Anyone under 18 years old will only be tested if they have explicit consent from a parent/guardian. It is emphatically an opt-in programme – if any parent or guardian doesn’t want their child to be tested, they don’t need to do anything.
The council is working with partners and the school nursing service to facilitate the voluntary programme within schools.
MYTH: Test centres are empty because nobody’s getting tested
FACT: Anyone who saw the response on the first day of testing can confirm that there is a lot of demand from residents for tests. However it’s important that we manage capacity to minimise queues and waiting times. We now have several sites open across the city to ensure increased accessibility, and to make it as safe and easy as possible for people to access a test. As well as this, we are sending out home testing kits and have mobile testing units available for people with symptoms of COVID-19
MYTH: Your DNA will be kept on record
FACT: Your DNA is not kept or recorded following a test. Once the test results are determined, the tests are disposed of on-site as clinical waste and then taken by waste collection for disposal, much the same as any other tests you might have taken at GP surgeries or hospitals.
There have been a lot of social posts showing a change in the law and claiming that this allows for your DNA to be kept on file. There is simply no connection between this and COVID-19 testing. This legislation is an extension for how long counter-terrorism police can keep fingerprints and DNA on file in cases which threaten national security, and does not relate to mass testing for COVID-19.