UK coronavirus testing will increase to 25,000 a day, says Boris Johnson

PM says NHS staff will be prioritised and UK is far ahead of many comparable countries

The UK will ramp up testing for coronavirus infection to 25,000 tests a day and NHS frontline staff are a priority, Boris Johnson has told the House of Commons.

Doctors and nurses working in hospitals have been calling for testing so that they can know whether they are infected with the virus and in danger of passing it on to patients. One junior doctor started an online petition that accumulated 700,000 signatures.

“We are prioritising NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they are not transmitting the disease,” Johnson said during prime minister’s questions. “This country is far ahead of many other comparable countries in testing large numbers of people.”

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He said the NHS was increasing its testing from 5,000 to 10,000 a day. In response to questions from the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who pointed out that the healthcare frontline workforce was far larger than that, Johnson went further. “We’re moving up to 25,000 a day,” he said.

Last week NHS England said it would be increasing testing from 5,000 to 10,000 a day, but on Tuesday the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said 4,000 tests were being carried out daily.

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On Thursday last week Johnson announced the start of the “delay” stage of the response, in which testing would be largely restricted to people ill in hospital. NHS staff were not on the list of groups who would be tested, and they were told to self-isolate if they had a consistent dry cough and fever. Many were alarmed by this, warning that if they became ill they could have infected other doctors and nurses who in turn might infect patients.

The World Health Organization has consistently advised countries to test everyone suspected of infection and their contacts, saying this was key to China and South Korea having brought down their numbers of cases and deaths.

Contributor

Sarah Boseley Health editor

The GuardianTramp

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