Government to ‘massively ramp up’ testing for coronavirus, says PM

From left, chief medical officer Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and chief scientific adv

From left, chief medical officer Chris Whitty, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance during a media briefing at 10 Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. Picture: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The prime minister has said the government is “massively ramping up” testing for coronavirus and hopes that “very soon” 250,000 tests will be carried out each day.

Speaking at his daily press conference on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said that the UK is “coping very well indeed under the most challenging possible circumstances”.

He said that the government was “massively ramping up our testing programmes” in the hope of being able to conduct a quarter of a million tests per day.

The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said however that there is a “global bottleneck” on buying more testing kits.

Also speaking at the press conference, he said it was the government’s aim to be able to buy tests that would allow NHS workers to go back to work if they test negative for coronavirus.


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He said: “This is a global problem – every country wants this new test for a disease that wasn’t being tested for anywhere three months ago.

“Everybody wants it so there is a global shortage and that’s a bottleneck for us.

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“The next priority is to get critical workers back to work or to say to them, ‘you have got it’. We definitely would like that.”

He added: “It’s not that there is no testing going on. What we need, clearly, is to be able to scale it up.”

Mr Johnson said that the UK had tested more people than most other European countries.

Wednesday’s figures are yet to be released, but a total of 90,436 people have been tested for Covid-19 in the UK as of 9am on Tuesday, March 24.

Of those, 8,077 of those tested positive for the disease, while at least 422 patients have died. There have been 42 confirmed cases of the virus in Norfolk so far.On Wednesday morning, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital announced that a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions had died – the first recorded death in the city.

Also in his press conference from Downing Street on Wednesday. Mr Johnson said the government would look at legal ways of rallying against those profiteering by hiking up online prices while the country is in lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing at 10 Downing Street, London, on coron

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during a media briefing at 10 Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. Picture: PA Video/PA Wire - Credit: PA

He said: “I dislike it very much and I do not want to see people profiteering, exploiting people’s need at a critical time, in a national emergency.

“We are indeed looking very carefully at what is going on.

“The Competition and Markets Authority already has various powers that it may use but are looking at the legislative framework to see what it may be necessary to do to prevent profiteering just as happened in war time many years ago.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister also commended the 405,000 volunteers who have signed up to a scheme to help the NHS and isolated patients who need help.

He said: “When we launched the appeal last night, we hoped to get 250,000 volunteers over a few days.

“But I can tell you that in just 24 hours, 405,000 people have responded to the call.

“That is already, in one day, as many volunteers as the population of Coventry.”

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