- Cheap COVID antigen tests are available with high specificity and sensitivity.
- They are easy to use and give results in 15 mins.
- In the EU, they are only approved for clinical use.
- Government could greatly expand testing simply by allowing people to test at home.
I tried a test for myself (skip to 7 mins)
A few notes on these tests
Performance: Relative specificity of this test is 97.1% and 99.5% sensitivity in a lab setting.
Cost: About 7 euro per test. Could be much cheaper if purchased at scale.
Result: You get the result within 15 mins.
Approval status: Approved for clinical use in the EU. Not allowed for home use.
Why antigen testing makes sense
Read more on RapidTests.org
What are the public health benefits of home antigen testing?
- Antigen tests are cheap and quick and good accuracy. This allows for widespread testing and earlier detection than having to wait for PCR tests.
- Antigen tests are sensitive during contagiousness. This means you are less likely to keep testing positive after being contagious (as can be the case with a PCR test).
What are the risks of allowing home testing?
- Not every test is 100% perfect. There will be a small number of false negatives (i.e. you test negative but are actually positive). We have to balance this against many more people currently not knowing they are positive and spreading the virus. Also, if people test positive at home, that frees up PCR testing (which is currently under too much pressure).
What can you do to help out?
- Talk to your friends about antigen testing as a way to reduce spread.
- Get in touch with your local politicians and ask them to push for emergency authorisation for home use.
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