Coronavirus: Boris Johnson pledges to get all test results out within 24 hours by end of June

Experts see speed in getting results out as key to lifting of lockdown

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 03 June 2020 13:09
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Coronavirus in numbers

Boris Johnson has issued a new pledge to get all coronavirus test results out within 24 hours by the end of this month.

Experts see speed in turning round tests as a vital element of the government’s strategy for taking the country out of lockdown, as fast results mean that the contacts of those who test positive can be traced before they spread the virus further.

But currently around 10 per cent of tests are taking 48 hours or more to produce a result, with many home-testing kits understood to be slower, often because of simple problems like lids being screwed on badly or barcodes being stuck on wrongly.

No official details have so far been routinely released of the speed of turnaround, as the government claims a capacity – yet to be fully utilised – of more than 200,000 tests each day.

Commons health committee chair Jeremy Hunt challenged Mr Johnson on the issue at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

“The prime minister rightly said he wanted a 24-hour turnaround for testing,” said the former health secretary.

“Could he tell us how many of the tests are currently being turned around within 24 hours and whether he’d be willing to publish on a regular basis that number?”

Mr Johnson responded: “We already do 90 per cent of tests turned around within 24 hours.

“Of the tests conducted at the 199 testing centres, as well as the mobile centres, they’re all done within 24 hours and I can undertake to him [Mr Hunt] now to get all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that.”

Under the government’s test-and-trace scheme, an army of more than 25,000 tracers has been recruited to track down anyone who has been in recent contact with a confirmed coronavirus case and tell them to self-isolate for 14 days in order to reduce the risk of them passing the infection on.

But leaked figures obtained by Channel 4 News suggested that in the first four days of the scheme’s operation, only 1,831 of the 4,456 confirmed Covid-19 patients reported to the tracers had provided details of their contacts, and only 1,749 contacts were spoken to.

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