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Britain ramps up COVID-19 testing to track spread of infections

Regular testing will increase from 28,000 people per fortnight to 150,000 by October

Coronavirus testing in England will be ramped up from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight to 150,000 by October, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) will launch a COVID-19 infection survey to track the virus in the general population, to gain new insight into how the virus is spreading.

The ONS has also partnered with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to extend the survey across the four nations, making it the UK’s largest COVID-19 surveillance survey.

The expanded study will provide extensive, weekly data on the spread of the coronavirus across the nation, and will support rapid testing and diagnosis of COVID-19.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the ONS will prioritise increasing testing in the north west of England and London, due to growing infection rates in these areas.

The study will allow government and local authorities to further narrow down areas which may be experiencing outbreak, which will potentially reduce the number of people affected by new lockdown restrictions.

The survey, co-led by the ONS and The University of Oxford, will use routine swabbing and antibody testing to provide key insights into the rate of infection and antibody levels in individual communities.

“This country now has the capacity to test for coronavirus on an unprecedented scale and this ONS survey will be a crucial part of this work – improving our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies,” said Hancock.

“This will allow us to further narrow down the areas potentially affected by local outbreaks and continue our fight to curb the spread ahead of winter.

“I urge anyone who is able to take part in this study to do so – you will be playing a vital role in the fight against the virus. The data and insights gathered will help inform our national, regional and local responses to the pandemic, allowing this nation to get back to the things we love doing,” he added.

The government is also providing a £2m grant to the ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study app to support its data collection. The app collects information from participants who regularly report on their health and symptoms, including if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or not.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

19th August 2020

From: Research

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