Level of asymptomatic COVID “much higher” than Government estimates claims Essex director of public health

The number of people with COVID-19 but showing no symptoms is “much much higher” than the government’s estimate, the director of public health for Essex has said.

The estimation from Dr Mike Gogarty that the number of asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 is higher than the assumed rate of one in three, raises serious questions over the level of inadvertent transmission by those who have no idea that they are carrying coronavirus.

It makes the roll-out of the lateral flow test (LFT), which allows people who have no symptoms to find out if they are infected, but not know it yet even more acute.

13 fast COVID-19 testing centres are now fully operational across the county, offering individuals without COVID-19 symptoms easy access to check if they have the virus.

Essex County Council (ECC) has led on the roll-out of the centres, alongside district council partners, and rapid LFTs are now the default testing approach in Essex.

Close to 50,000 people have been tested to date and residents are being urged to book an LFT as soon as possible – if they have not already – to help break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.

LFTs give results in around 30 minutes and quickly help to identify hidden cases of COVID-19 in the community.

This means individuals who are not showing symptoms can take immediate action and avoid the risk of passing on the virus. This is particularly important in respect of individuals who are unable to work from home or who have to come into close contact with others as part of their job.

At a meeting of ECC’s health scrutiny committee on Wednesday (January 27), Dr Mike Gogarty, its director of public, said: “While the Government is saying and continues to say that one in three cases are asymptomatic, we are finding the figures are much much higher than that.”

Of the total tests carried out, Dr Gogarty said the county saw around five per cent come back positive around Christmas which has now fallen to around three per  cent.

He added: “We are seeing a sustained decline.

“We suspected to see quite a slow decline following a rapid increase but actually the rate of decline has been very similar to the increase.

“We have almost got a classical infection outbreak curve.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter