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UK government reveals only 2,000 key NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus

Health officials face criticism over strict production measures

NHS

The UK government has tested only 2,000 out of around half a million frontline NHS staff for coronavirus, according to the latest figures, with experts aiming criticism at health officials over the lack of wide-scale testing for key workers.

With coronavirus cases surging in the UK – currently reaching over 29,000 on 2 April – experts have called for health officials to drop restrictive production measures that are hindering the large-scale manufacture of coronavirus tests.

Public Health England (PHE) has maintained that precise chemicals – reagents – and equipment that are necessary for the wide-scale production of effective coronavirus tests. However, with dwindling supplies of certain reagents, experts have said it will be necessary for the UK to find alternatives to prevent more delays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted yesterday that his government needed to "massively ramp up" testing in an effort to allow staff that are self-isolating unnecessarily to return to work.

“I want to say a special word about testing, because it is so important, and as I have said for weeks and weeks, this is the way through,” said Johnson.

“This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end,” he added.

The Prime Minister also said that antibody testing could also be useful, with the hope that these tests can identify who has already been infected with the coronavirus.

Press reports have alleged that the UK government has ordered millions of these antibody tests, but must validate their accuracy before making them available for NHS staff and the public.

These tests, which work by pricking the user’s finger for blood, identify if there are COVID-19 antibodies present in the body. The results are rapid – taking only 15 minutes – and a positive results indicates that a person has had the coronavirus and recovered, in theory.

PHE medical director Yvonne Doyle added during Downing Street’s daily coronavirus briefing yesterday that the government intends to increase key NHS staff testing from "thousands to hundreds of thousands within the coming weeks".

The UK government has been repeatedly criticised for its testing strategy, with a number of NHS trusts reporting that they are being limited by the number of test they can carry out due to shortages of supplies such as swabs, reagents and testing kits.

“It is striking how many trusts are also reporting significant constraints due to swab and reagent shortages,” said Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers.

“Trust leaders will do the very best they can with the resources they have available, but these shortages, which trusts do not control, need to be overcome if we are to see the growth in testing capacity we are all looking for,” he added.

Article by
PMGroup

2nd April 2020

From: Research

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