On the 20th January 2021, Eastleigh College announced that it would be offering testing for Covid-19.
The testing will utilise the same lateral flow method as the University of Southampton’s system. Unlike the PCR test, it does not require a swab of the nostril and back of the throat, making it less invasive and uncomfortable. It also allows for a more rapid turnaround. However, questions have been raised about the efficacy of the test.
The British Medical Journal reported in December of last year that a field evaluation in Liverpool that as many as a third of cases were missed by lateral flow testing. Its report quoted a professor of biostatistics at the University of Birmingham, John Deeks, who said
‘These results are devastating—they are missing a third of those with high viral loads. How can these tests be used for safe entry into care homes, for healthcare workers to safely return to work, or for the safe return of students? They are not fit for purpose.’
Previously, the government had embraced the lateral flow test as the cornerstone of its mass-testing programme, ‘Operation Moonshot’, which was subsequently shelved.
The College’s statement, available here, says that while the testing programme is not mandatory, the vast majority of students and staff have signed up for it. The college will also be operating its own tracing system, in which anyone deemed a close contact of a detected case will be told to isolate by college staff.