Accuracy of RT PCR Test in the Community in England

Nicholas Wells made this Freedom of Information request to Public Health England

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Public Health England did not have the information requested.

Dear Public Health England,

I am reading conflicting information regarding the accuracy of the RT-PCR test that is currently being used to determine cases of COVID-19 in England (i.e. a positive test for the presence of SARS-CoV-2).

I have heard MPs suggesting it has only <1% false positives (Matt Hancock interviewed by Kay Burley on Sky News), some not even aware that false positives exist (Grant Shapps interviewed by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio), and others suggesting 93% false positives at the airport (Dominic Raab interviewed by Kay Burley on Sky News).

I have seen published papers (such as here https://www.aerzteblatt.de/archiv/214370...) and newspaper articles suggesting up to 70% false positives when there is a community prevalence of the virus of approximately 3%, and then television news presenters, such as Kay Burley suggesting a 30% false positive rate (in the interview mentioned above with Matt Hancock).

In light of the above, please confirm the following:

1) what do PHE determine the current community prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 to be in England as of the date of this request (or as close to this date as possible);
2) taking into consideration the answer to 1) and the sensitivity and specificity of the RT-PCR test currently used in England to test people in the community for SARS-CoV-2, what do PHE estimate the false positive rate to be for those tested in the community in England; and
3) Do PHE advise either SAGE, Matt Hancock or any other people advising or forming part of the UK Government of the estimated false positive rate and if so who and how often?

This request is made under the Freedom of Information Act and I politely request that this request is expedited due to the importance of the information being requested.

Faithfully,

Nicholas Wells

FOI, Public Health England

Dear Nicholas Wells

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FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

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FOI, Public Health England

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    1460 FOI Community prevalence of SARS CoV 2 false positve rate it rate given to SAGEMPs.pdf

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Dear Nicholas Wells

Please find attached Public Health England's response to your request.

FOI Team
Public Accountability Unit
Public Health England
[Public Health England request email]
www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE uk

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