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03.04.20

Health Secretary outlines plans for 100k coronavirus tests a day

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has outlined a new five-pillar plan detailing the national efforts to increase testing in England, with an aim to carry out 100,000 tests for coronavirus a day by the end of the month.

As part of the new five-pillar plan, which brings together the skills and expertise of government, industry, academia, the NHS and many others to dramatically increase the number of tests being carried out daily, there is also a clearly defined objective for increased testing within the NHS.

Professor John Newtown, the Director of Health Improvement for Public Health England, has been appointed to help deliver the new plans and bring together industry, universities, NHS and government behind the ambitious testing targets.

He will coordinate a national effort with global manufacturers encouraged to expand their manufacturing capacity here in England.

The strongest, homegrown businesses in the life sciences sector and other industries are also being encouraged to turn their resources over to creating and rolling out mass testing at scale, with the government pledging to support anyone with a scalable scientific idea or innovation to start a business.

New testing capabilities for the NHS and families will support staff who are isolating at home to safely return to work if the test is negative and keep themselves and others safe at home should the test be positive.

Significant progress to increase testing has already taken place across the country to protect the vulnerable, support our NHS, and ultimately save lives. New testing centres have been established at the main hotspots of the disease, and the UK has already conducted more than 152,000 tests. The 5-pillar plan sets targets to expand the England’s capability further.

The new 5-pillar plan outlines the ambitions to:

  • Scale up swab testing in PHE labs and NHS hospitals for those with a medical need and the most critical workers to 25,000 a day by mid to late April.
  • Deliver increased commercial swab testing for critical key workers in the NHS, before then expanding to key workers in other sectors.
  • Develop blood testing to help know if people have the right antibodies and so have high levels of immunity to coronavirus.
  • Conduct surveillance testing to learn more about the spread of the disease and help develop new tests and treatments.
  • Create a new National Effort for testing, to build a mass-testing capacity at a completely new scale.

Once widespread testing is available, the government has said it will prioritise repeated testing of critical key workers, to keep them safe and make sure that they do not spread the virus.

Over time, plans announced today will also see increasing focus on testing to see if people have already had the virus, to identify if they have the antibodies that will give them immunity against catching it again. Although the science is new and developing, the aim is for a successful test that can be rolled out at scale, which could allow first critical workers, then the wider population, to return to work and their daily lives.

Main Image Credit: Pippa Fowles/DPA/PA Images

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