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Coronavirus: NHS to test 25,000 hospital patients a day for Covid-19

Prime minister issues call to industry leaders to develop new tests to establish whether people have had the virus and developed immunity

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 18 March 2020 15:23 GMT
Johnson: Britons 'understand what they need to do to beat' coronavirus

Up to 25,000 hospital patients a day will be tested for coronavirus under new government plans to ramp up testing for the disease.

Ministers have announced the measures this afternoon as criticism grows over the UK’s lack of capacity for testing suspected community cases, and with frontline NHS staff being forced to stop work and isolate for 14 days.

The new testing could include swab tests outside hospitals so people suspected of having the virus can find out quickly if they have it.

The Department of Health and Social Care said officials were working to increase the number of tests carried out by Public Health England (PHE) and NHS labs within the next four weeks – around the time of the expected peak in coronavirus cases.

It comes as the World Health Organisation director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries needed to “test, test, test” adding: “You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded.”

The prime minister has issued a call to industry leaders to help develop new tests for the virus and pledged support for their efforts.

One vital new test is to find out whether a person has had coronavirus and developed immunity which could help ensure NHS staff are able to get back to work as quickly as possible.

As of Wednesday morning the UK had tested more than 56,000 patients with more than 2,600 now testing positive for the virus in the UK.

Last week, the NHS and PHE increased testing to 5,000 a day and that number is expected to hit 10,000 a day from next week.

In addition, since the end of February Public Health England has been testing a sample of the general population as part of a surveillance programme to identify how the disease is circulating.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said: “Public safety is my top priority, and radically ramping up testing for coronavirus is a key part of our plan to protect lives.

“We are already among the best in the world for coronavirus testing and today we are launching a national effort to increase our testing capability even further.

“Our aim is to protect life, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS – so it is right that we prioritise testing for those most at risk of severe illness.”

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