SCHOOLS have been left in chaos amid fears Covid cases are escaping PCR tests, as pupils are told not to isolate and sent back to class.
The tests have sparked mass confusion – with an emerging new pattern of positive lateral flow test results followed by negative PCRs.
It appears to have happened largely in the South West of England so far, with Brits left baffled and not knowing what to do.
Parents and teachers have reported schoolkids who likely have Covid being sent back into classrooms, after getting the apparent all clear from a PCR.
It has sparked fears of a new variant which could escape the "gold standard" PCR tests, the i reports.
The UK Health Security Agency said there is currently no evidence of any new variants.
However sources told the newspaper it is being looked into as a line of investigation, with the UKHSA confirming it's probing the test confusion.
Usually after testing positive on a lateral flow test, the PCR comes back positive to confirm it.
Health officials have now urged people to isolate if they have Covid symptoms, even if the follow-up PCR has said they are negative.
Debbie Roberts, a teaching assistant at a primary school in South Gloucestershire, near Bristol, had seven positive lateral flow tests and two negative PCRs, in early September.
She said she is certain she had Covid, catching the virus from a pupil who also had a positive LFT and then a negative PCR and came back to school the next day.
She said: “I think it’s happening a lot. It has happened to two work colleagues and my mum who unfortunately caught it off me.
“I would query whether it’s a new strain that isn’t being picked up by the PCRs. I have had 18 months of negative tests, I test twice weekly and it was literally a dark burgundy line straight away.
"They say they are investigating but how? They have no idea about me because I’m negative as far as they’re concerned.”
The UKHSA warned test cannot be relied upon for 100 per cent accuracy but added chances of a false positive are low.
'HAPPENING A LOT'
Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, told The Times false negatives are not a surprise.
He said: "We know lateral flows have very low false positives, and that PCRs miss infections."
And Dr Kit Yates, member of Independent SAGE, tweeted a claim that health officials told schools false positives were likely down to colds producing heavy mucus samples.
He added: "My understanding is that lateral flow devices are designed to avoid cross-reactivity with other viruses, which suggests this is not the case."
Mum Carole Scott, from North Somerset, said her son, 6, had three lateral flow tests, but two negative results.
She said others in his class had the same thing, adding: “The group chat is full of people sending positive lateral flows and saying ‘but the PCR’s negative’ and they’re sending them in or they’re not sure whether to send them in."
Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said: “We have been made aware of some areas reporting positive LFD [lateral flow device] test results with subsequent negative PCR tests and we are looking into the cause.
“If you get a positive LFD test, it’s important to make sure that you then get a follow-up PCR test to confirm you have Covid-19.
"If you have symptoms of Covid-19, self-isolate and take a PCR test.
"With any test, it is important to carefully read and follow the instructions for use on the test kit so as to avoid any incorrect readings.”
It comes after data at the beginning of the month showed with up to two kids in each classroom was infected with Covid.
And an expert warned families to be cautious of their grandparents, as Covid spreads out from schools and into homes.
Professor Tim Spector leads the ZOE Covid Symptom Study app, which has shown rising case numbers in those aged between 30 and 50.
Prof Spector said: “Many of them may well be the parents who are mixing with these infected kids. I think this is likely to be a driving infection source for the next few weeks.
“So if you've got kids at school, do be a bit careful about mixing, particularly with vulnerable or elderly relatives for the next couple of weeks.”
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