Increasing the number of coronavirus tests has been the focus of the Government in recent weeks, and now Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove revealed in Friday’s coronavirus press conference tests will be rolled out immediately. For some, this means being able to return to work if having already had the virus, as some immunity may have been built up.
Who will be tested first?
Mr Gove said new capacity for testing is being rolled out immediately and will increase dramatically next week.
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He said: “This will be antigen testing, testing if people currently have the disease, so our health and social care workers can have security in the knowledge that they are safe to return to work if their test is negative.
“These tests will be trialled for people on the frontline starting immediately, with hundreds to take place by the end of the weekend, dramatically scaling up next week.”
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Doctors, nurses, and other frontline staff will be the first to receive testing.
NHS CEO Simon Stevens said testing of frontline NHS staff to determine whether they have or have had coronavirus will start next week.
He said: “From an NHS perspective, we think it is urgently important that we are able to test frontline workers who are off sick or otherwise isolating.
“That’s why the work that Public Health England has been leading is so important because it means we are going to be able to double this time next week the number of tests we have been doing this week.
“I can say that today we will be rolling out staff testing across the NHS, starting next week with the critical care nurses, other staff in intensive care, emergency departments, ambulance services, GPs.
“As testing volumes continue to increase, we want to widen that to essential public service workers, as well as our social care workers, and continue with patient testing that is so vital.”
How can I get tested for coronavirus?
Currently, there are 6,200 confirmed Covid-19 patients being treated in English hospitals and he said that number is “only bound to rise in the coming days”.
As things stand, most people are not being tested unless their symptoms are severe.
Mr Gove was asked whether ministers would all be tested in light of the prime minister’s diagnosis, but he said they would not, unless they had symptoms.
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He said: “People are tested if they are symptomatic and those members of the central effort in helping to defeat the virus who do show symptoms are appropriately tested.”
The government said it was working with private firms Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and Randox, as well as with the independent health foundation the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities to set up the new programme.
Three new hub laboratories will be set up for the duration of the crisis.
The first of those is expected to receive approval by Saturday and to start operating over the weekend, processing 800 samples initially.
The number of tests will be scaled up every week after that, and Mr Stevens said the aim was to expand the tests to a wider range of workers beyond the NHS.
Boris Johnson is working from his home in Downing Street after revealing on Friday he had tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Johnson, 55, experienced mild symptoms on Thursday, a day after he answered questions at a weekly question-and-answer session in parliament’s House of Commons chamber.
He received the positive test result at around midnight.
Mr Johnson released a video on Twitter and said: “I’ve taken a test. That has come out positive.
“I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus. That’s to say – a temperature and a persistent cough.
“Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fightback against coronavirus.”
Health minister Matt Hancock, another senior member of the British government’s response, said he had also tested positive and was self-isolating at home with mild symptoms.
Professor Chris Whitty, the government’s top medical adviser also said he had symptoms so is self-isolating.
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