Coronavirus: Matt Hancock sets aim of 100,000 tests a day by end of April


Medical staff are seen testing people at a coronavirus test centre in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Chessington, Britain,

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Reuters

The UK is aiming to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as he announced a “five-pillar strategy” for testing.

It comes after the government was criticised for not increasing the number of tests more quickly.

Mr Hancock also said work had started to build a “large diagnostics industry” in Britain.

The number of people with the virus who have died in the UK has risen by 569.

As of 17:00 BST on Wednesday, the overall number of deaths with the virus in the UK was 2,921.

Speaking at the end of his seven days of quarantine after testing positive for the virus, Mr Hancock said: “I’m now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month.

“That is the goal and I’m determined we’ll get there.”

The 100,000 target encompasses a variety of tests – including the swab tests currently being used to test if people already have the virus, as well as the antibody blood test which, although not developed yet, can test if somebody has had the virus.

Mr Hancock said the government was working with nine companies who have offered these blood tests – but he said “they’ve got to work” and the government will not allow them to be rolled out if they are not effective.

On Tuesday, there was capacity for 12,799 daily tests in England – although just over 10,650 people were tested. The government’s target by mid-April had been to test 25,000 per day.

Speaking at the end of his seven days of after quarantine after testing positive for the virus, Mr Hancock said the UK “didn’t go into this crisis with a huge diagnostics industry” like other countries such as Germany.

He defended his decision to prioritise patients for testing rather than NHS staff, saying: “I believe anybody in my shoes would have taken the same decision.”

“I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can get back to the front line, of course I do.

“But I took the decision that the first priority has to be the patients for whom the results of a test could be the difference in treatment that is the difference between life and death.”

Mr Hancock added that pharmaceutical giants who “have no great history in diagnostics” are now working to build a British diagnostics industry.

Earlier, senior health officials said they were “frustrated” by the UK’s lack of progress in expanding testing, and the current figures were “nowhere near where we need to get to”.



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