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COVID-19 test results: what you need to know to understand them

By Gabriel Recchia, Research Associate, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge
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Testing has been vital during the pandemic. Negative COVID-19 test results have allowed people the freedom to work and travel, while positive results have been used to isolate infected individuals and protect the wider community.

But the main form of testing used – the lab-based method known as PCR testing – isn’t perfectly accurate. False positives, where a test says someone has COVID-19 when they don’t, are thought to occur between 0.8% and 4% of the time when people without…

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