Temperature screening ‘unreliable’ method of COVID-19 detection, says government

The government is urging the UK to use temperature screening products with cautionThe government is urging the UK to use temperature screening products with caution.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warns there is little evidence to support temperature screening as a reliable method of COVID-19 detection.

Additionally, it is telling manufacturers of thermal cameras to not make claims that they are linked directly to the diagnosis of the virus.

Graeme Tunbridge, the director of devices at MHRA, said that many products are designed for non-medical purposes and environments.

Health at risk

‘Many thermal cameras and temperature screening products were originally designed for non-medical purposes. For example, for building or site security,’ he said.

‘Businesses and organisations need to know that using these products for temperature screening could put people’s health at risk.

‘These products should only be used in line with the manufacturer’s original intended use, and not to screen people for COVID-19 symptoms.

‘They do not perform to the level required to accurately support a medical diagnosis.

‘We are reminding anyone selling these products not to make claims which directly relate to COVID-19 diagnosis. Therefore, if they fail to comply, we will take formal enforcement action.’

Unreliable screening

Any products where the manufacturer claims its purpose is to screen for COVID-19 are viewed as medical devices and regulated by the MHRA.

Temperature readings from screening devices will measure the temperature of the skin, rather than core body temperature.

However, in both cases natural changes in temperature can occur in healthy individuals. As a result, the agency points out that the readings are an unreliable measure for COVID-19 detection.

Additionally, those with the virus who do not develop a fever would not be detected by a temperature reading. Therefore, they could unknowingly spread the virus.


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