Auditor General Odysseas Michaelides says a second PCR test came back negative, giving rise to further debate over the reliability of rapid test results, with a health expert also raising questions over the use of the method in Cyprus.
Michaelides, who was asked to attend a House watchdog committee hearing on Thursday, was abruptly asked to leave after a rapid test he had taken at the entrance of the building came back positive.
But after a second rapid test was said to be inconclusive, the auditor general proceeded with a PCR test, which came back negative. A second PCR test confirmed he was negative.
“Just got word from the lab. The 2nd PCR test also negative. All's well that ends well,” Michaelides wrote on Twitter.
Health expert warns over false results
But all is not well according to Charis Armeftis, a local pulmonologist in the private sector, who says false results from rapid tests are a contributing factor in the ongoing spread of the coronavirus withint the community.
“When someone has symptoms of a respiratory tract infection and has a negative rapid test, a PCR molecular test is also needed for confirmation,” Armeftis said.
The medical doctor used the auditor general as an example, saying “if he had not done the PCR, he and his contacts would have had to remain isolated for 14 days.”
'Just think, there are people moving about within the community with a negative rapid test but in reality they are carriers'
Armeftis also used referred to another case, a 77-year-old man in Limassol who had done three rapid tests in one week which all came back negative. But the man, who had symptoms, took a PCR test after the third test and within 24 hours he had to be hospitalized.
There are false negatives and false positive results according to Armeftis, who told local media “just think, there are people moving about within the community with a negative rapid test but in reality they are carriers.”
According to the ECDC, rapid test would be more useful if they are conducted at the known start of symptoms and up to five days later.
Rapid antigen tests can contribute to overall COVID-19 testing capacity, offering advantages in terms of shorter turnaround times and reduced costs, especially in situations in which RT-PCR testing capacity is limited.
But the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control also warns that test sensitivity for rapid antigen tests is generally lower than for RT-PCR.
Local critics including health experts have questioned the benefit of broad-reaching rapid tests in the Republic of Cyprus, with some politicians calling on more vaccines and fewer rapid tests. Other experts called for better-targeted rapid tests.
The government insists the rapid test programme, which includes weekly tests for workers and students, is a useful and methodical test in combating the pandemic.
Last week, a group of high school seniors in Limassol wreaked havoc on their high school after it emerged that dozens of cases thought to have tested positive ended up in the clear moments later.
Health experts say schools are risk areas for the spread of the pandemic, government officials making weekly rapid tests mandatory for those attending class.
But a high school student who refuses to take the rapid test citing constitutional and medical reasons, says he would gladly take an alternate test. A photo showing him standing outside a glass window and following along with a lesson inside his classroom has gone viral, keeping the debate over mandatory rapid tests alive in Cyprus.