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Fact check: Boris Johnson did not say 93% of coronavirus tests in the UK produce false positives

Social media users have shared a video of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a TV interview along with a caption that reads: “Boris Johnson admits 93% of Covid-19 tests produce false positives”. This caption is false. Johnson was talking about the limitations of airport testing in the interview.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The footage was shared on YouTube on Oct. 4, 2020, and has a title frame that says: “UK Prime Minister, COVID tests 93% inaccurate” (here) .

The same clip was uploaded to Facebook with the caption “Boris Johnson admits 93% of Covid-19 tests produce false positives” and shared more than 170 times (here) .

The clip shows Johnson saying: “The particular problem is that everyone thinks you can have some test at the airport that will answer whether you’ve got it or not, unfortunately it only works in 7% of the cases, 93% of the time you could have a real false sense of security, false sense of confidence when you arrive and take a test.”

The full clip of Johnson speaking can be seen in this Sept. 4 BBC news report (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-54031912) . Johnson can be heard defending his decision not to replace quarantine times for travellers with airport testing.

A false positive result is when a person who is not infected by the coronavirus tests positive for it. This is not what Johnson describes in the video. The Prime Minister is instead referring to the likelihood of a single airport test upon arrival giving positive readings for all travellers carrying the virus.

According to the BBC report, Johnson’s comments on this matter stemmed from Public Health England modelling, visible here . The modelling looked at whether it would be effective to require travellers entering the UK to undergo two rounds of testing for the coronavirus.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab repeated the figure of 7% test accuracy during an interview with Sky News about airport testing (here) .

Reuters confirmed in a separate fact check that Raab was referencing modelling that indicates that testing passengers once on arrival would only detect 7% of positive cases (here) .

VERDICT

False. This video of Johnson is authentic but has been given a false context. It refers exclusively to airport testing and does not offer proof that 93% of Covid-19 tests in the UK produce false positives.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work reuters.com/fact-check/about/ .

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