Questions concerning COVID-19 testing: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

1. The website reports on 'confirmed cases of COVID-19'. What factor or factors determine whether or not a COVID-19 case is confirmed?

2. The Scottish Government issues statistics of ‘those tested’. Does this refer to PCR tests only or does it also include antibody tests?

3. What evidence source does the Scottish Government base its decisions on regarding the reliability of the PCR test to accurately identify the presence of SARS-CoV-19? Please provide references and evidence of how these have been evaluated.

4. Does the COVID-19 test used in Scotland determine viral load, or only the presence of the SARSCoV-19 virus in any quantity?

5. The testing guidance provided at affirms ‘Testing will allow anyone with symptoms to know if they have the virus’. Please provide the scientific references that allow the Scottish Government to make that assertion, or otherwise advise in percentage terms the degree of certainty anticipated that the result is accurate.

You emailed further on the 27th September 2020 to acknowledge that 'SARS-CoV-19' in 3. and 4. should read 'SARS-CoV-2'.



1. A confirmed case is where a person has tested positive. (Covid-19 cases are identified by taking specimens from people and sending these specimens to laboratories around the UK to be tested. If the test is positive, this is referred to as a lab-confirmed case)

2. PCR Tests only. Please see the following links with further information –

3. PCR tests are carried out by a range of labs . NHS, Lighthouse, Private. There are groups looking at the quality of all of these. Examples of the quality process are the UKAS lab accreditation in the NHS Labs.

4. Viral load is not measured.

5. Based on Local data published PCR is 98% accurate for those with symptoms.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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