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Our View: Results from Covid tests can be hit-and-miss


It is rather surprising that it’s taken this long for families in Cyprus to publicly declare that they are not convinced their loved ones who have died recently, were killed by Covid-19, but relatives of three families have been vocal about it in the past few days on social media.

The public has had almost 10 months to educate themselves on the difference between dying with Covid-19 and dying of Covid-19.

Until now, compared with other countries, Cyprus has been relatively good in distinguishing between Covid as a cause of death, or it being merely incidental in a patient with serious comorbidities. A few months back, Britain was forced to lower its Covid death numbers by 5,377 due to misclassifications, which have happened in almost every country, so there is no reason to assume that mistakes have not also been made in Cyprus.

In one of the recent Cyprus cases, according to relatives, a woman with breathing difficulties was admitted to Paphos general on Friday and tested negative with PCR. She died 10 hours later, testing positive close to the time of death. Her relatives find it hard to believe she contracted the virus and died from it in that short space of time. No post-mortems are done when it comes to Covid so the exact cause of death cannot be established.

It is possible the woman was Covid positive all along and the initial negative test was wrong. Certainly, she did not go in negative, catch coronavirus and die from it in 10 hours. Tesla mogul Elon Musk tweeted last week he had taken four PCR tests in one day, using the same method and nurse. Two of the tests came back positive and two negative. All this and more such documented testing anomalies seem to indicate there are serious issues with the PCR tests, either in themselves or the way they are carried out or processed.

As our own Covid guru Leondios Kostrikis explained to this newspaper in an interview recently, not all nasal swabs are created equal. Some can gather up more virus depending on who is administering them. The number of threshold cycles used to find the virus during the PCR process is also a factor and can differ from lab to lab, giving widely different results.

How positive a person tests is a real factor. The lower the cycle needed to find the virus, the higher the viral load. Logically then, if the unfortunate woman tested positive at a lower cycle threshold, couldn’t it be easily established that Covid was the main cause of death, whether it exacerbated any comorbidities leading to death or whether it was incidental?

Authorities need to get a grip on this or the public will lose confidence and view the testing process as a game of chance – positive today, negative tomorrow or vice versa. Worse, if such ambiguous incidents keep happening, people who might be positive but test negative will be circulating and unwittingly spreading the virus.

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