A message spreading predominantly in the UK across social media urges readers not to get tested, even if they have symptoms of COVID-19, since this will help avoid a second lockdown.
The message claims that stopping testing will result in the virus disappearing “overnight”. Many variants of the message claim the message was written by a nurse from Southend Hospital. An example is below.
Copied From a nurse who works at Southend hospital
Can people just stop getting tested? You are adding to the problem and taking us into a 2nd phase lockdown!! YOU are giving the government the number of cases and the powers to take us into a winter lockdown! Just stop the testing and this will disappear overnight …. If you are well enough to get yourself to a testing centre then your absolutely fine, stay at home for 2 weeks just to be safe, eat well and then crack on! You don’t need to wear a positive covid test like a badge of honour for absolute no reason do you?? You think spring/summer lockdown was bad? Wait until its dark more than it’s light, no garden to enjoy because its cold and rainy, no festivities to look forward to, no Christmas markets or shopping, no taking the kids to see Father Christmas? Plus your standard normal winter illnesses to throw in the mix!! More people will die of suicide than EVER before! Our elderly will die sooner than they should because they will be restricted on the usual things that keep them sane, like community groups? We need social interaction to thrive and stay healthy. I dont need no paid off scientist to do research to tell me that !!! Turn off your TV, ignore the propaganda, THINK FOR YOURSELVES … End this now !!!!! COPY & PASTE THIS !!!
The message is false, counterproductive, potentially very dangerous and directly contradicts advice from the vast majority of leading experts and relevant health entities.
In the face of any pandemic, it is well established that being able administer tests is one of the primary ways that health entities can tackle a virus, curb its spread and ultimately reduce the amount of severe cases and fatalities. Widespread testing has the following benefits –
1. Testing allows authorities to identify exactly where a virus is spreading and to what extent it is spreading (by analysing the percentage of positive results) which in turn allows authorities to impose localised restrictions to stop the spread of the virus as well allowing authorities to make informed decisions when allocating resources.
2. Testing lets individuals know if they need to self-isolate which in turn reduces the chances of them spreading the virus onto other people.
3. Testing is necessary for track-and-trace systems to function correctly, so if someone does test positive for the virus, others that they have been into close contact with can themselves be tested and/or self-isolate to help reduce the chances of them also passing on the virus to other people.
4. Testing provides valuable insights and data related to how a virus spreads and reacts to specific restrictions or measures, which in turn is used to help combat the spread of the virus.
An article on Heart.org by Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer for Prevention at the American Heart Association goes into more detail here.
At the time of writing, due to issues with demand, the UK government and National Health Service only recommends getting a test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. From the NHS website –
Who can get a test
Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test.
Coronavirus symptoms are:
a high temperature
a new, continuous cough
a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
However, the message circulating social media dangerously claims that no one other than those so physically ill as to be incapable of getting tested should be tested. (“If you are well enough to get yourself to a testing centre then your absolutely fine“[sic])
However, without testing, authorities tackling the spread of a virus are essentially thrown into the dark, as they no longer understand how a virus spreads, where it is spreading, to what extent it has spread, how to allocate potentially life-saving resources or what measures or restrictions are necessary, if any.
While the notion that a sudden halt in testing will result in a lower number of reported cases which in turn will stave off a national lockdown may hold true for some amount of time, the notion itself is nonsensical. As per the reasons outlined above, doing so will inevitably result in the increased spread of the virus (a lower number of reported cases of course does not mean a lower amount of actual cases, and in this context is likely to mean the exact opposite) and as such will see a surge in severe cases, hospitalisations and fatalities as the virus inevitably spreads to demographics known to be vulnerable to the virus (including elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions.) The additional claim that this virus will “disappear” overnight when stopping testing is demonstrably false.
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And since the author of this dangerous copy and paste message seems to prioritise the goal of fending off a second national lockdown, it is of course worth noting that such a surge in hospitalisations and fatalities will naturally have the same effect of having more accurate testing data with a high number of reported cases – a looming national lockdown. The difference, however, is with testing stopped, the number of fatalities will be much higher, and since the virus has spread further, this will likely have a more substantially detrimental effect on a country’s economy.
As for the claim that this was authored by a “nurse in Southend Hospital”, this is likely false. Most early versions of this copy and paste message did not make such an attribution. It is likely this was attributed to someone working in the medical profession to lend credibility to the message when it deserves none.
Each country has to walk its own tightrope between curbing the spread of a virus, while simultaneously fighting for its economy, its businesses and the mental health of its citizens. But what is certain, however, is that widespread testing will help – not hinder – in those important decision making processes.