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Chamber and committees

Question ref. S6W-00843
Asked by: Daniel Johnson, Edinburgh Southern, Scottish Labour
Date lodged: 17 June 2021


To ask the Scottish Government what information it has regarding the accuracy of PCR testing for COVID-19, and how the error rate informs its Test and Protect level decisions.

Current status: Answered by Maree Todd on 1 July 2021


Protective measures, and the Levels Approach, are informed using a range of data on epidemiological conditions and health system capacity. Numbers of Covid-19 cases being just one of these considerations. PCR tests are the key diagnostic tool in identifying infected persons. They are highly accurate and represent the gold standard for Covid-19 testing. They work by detecting the Covid-19 virus from a swab sample taken from the nose and or throat. There are a variety of PCR tests used in Scotland, all of which are rigorously tested and are regulated and approved by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The Scottish Government are aware that, as with any medical test, there is a margin of error and that false results can occur. This margin however is very small.

Further information regarding the RT-PCR test can be found in Public Health Scotland’s frequently asked questions document: .

Further information regarding how the various protective measures are informed can be found here: Coronavirus (COVID-19) protective measures: indicators and data - (