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As countries deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in varying ways, one area of agreement is the need to test for the COVID-19 virus in as many people as possible. Beeching et al have rightly pointed out that ‘tests cannot be interpreted if they are not available’.1 However, as reported in the UK media, access to COVID-19 (viral) testing has been limited for some sections of the population including healthcare professionals and carers. There have also been long delays in getting the results back to the person being tested. This has now been addressed by increasing the number of specimen collection stations and the use of home collection kits, although the return of results can take several days.
Learning from COVID-19 testing experience
As we now move into the next phase of getting the economy restarted, the number of tests required will increase significantly, underpinning the test and trace service. More and more employers and business owners will be asking the question ‘Do any of my employees or customers have COVID-19?’; there has also been a call for testing at the borders, as international travel recommences. This will further stimulate the demand for convenient and timely testing; Beeching et al 1 argued the need for rapid near patient testing, a point also made by Sheridan reviewing the developments in fast, portable diagnostic tests for COVID-19.2 We refer to this as point-of-care testing (POCT) since the intention is to act on the result (the care element) immediately. POCT recognises the immediacy of the question being asked both in spatial and temporal dimensions.3
With the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sheer number of people that require testing (virus or antibody), it is relatively easy to demonstrate the benefit, and therefore the value, of POCT to a wide spectrum of what we might call …
Contributors Both authors have worked together on two of the main topics featured in this manuscript. They conceived and researched the topics relevant to COVID-19 together and contributed equally to the writing and revision of the manuscript.
Funding This research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Community Healthcare MedTech and In Vitro Diagnostics Cooperative at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care. This paper is part of the work of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine and World Association of Societies of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Committee for the Value Proposition in Laboratory Medicine.
Competing interests CPP has read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declares the following interests: CPP chairs an advisory committee for LumiraDx for which he is remunerated. He has no financial interests in the company. AStJ has read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of interests and declare that he has no competing interests.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.