Five-step plan for testing as government promise to escalate testing to 100,000 a day
PUBLISHED: 19:51 02 April 2020 | UPDATED: 21:24 02 April 2020
A new “five pillar” approach will be taken by the government as part of a response to increase testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April.
Matt Hancock, the secretary for health and social care, himself returning from isolation after showing symptoms of the virus, set out the plans which included wiping £13bn in debt from NHS trusts to allow them to be in a “stronger position” to respond to the coronavirus crisis and £300m to be made available for community pharmacies.
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In his address he said: “Today, to help NHS trusts to deliver what’s needed without worrying about past finances, I can announce that I’m writing off £13.4 billion of historic NHS debt.
“This landmark step will not only put the NHS in a stronger position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic, but it will ensure that our NHS has stronger foundations for the future too.”
He followed up by detailing his “five pillar” approach to testing which includes swab testing in Public Health England and NHS labs, using commercial partners including universities and private businesses, to establish further testing, introducing antibody blood tests to determine whether people have had Covid-19, surveillance to determine the rate of infection and how it is spreading across the country and build an “at-scale” diagnostics industry to reach his test target by the end of April.
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The government has come under fire for the number of frontline staff that have received tests and the level of personal protective equipment being distributed to hospital.
The cabinet minister defended his decision to prioritise testing of patients over NHS staff, of which 5,000 have been tested, and said he thought any health secretary would have done the same.
He said: ““No test is better than a bad test.”
He insisted that the government was “well equipped and well prepared” for the coronavirus pandemic and the response from the health and social system was “nothing short of heroic”.
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He said: “Of course increasing the amount of tests is mission critical, and I have just announced that we’re going to accelerate that, but we have hit the target that we set at the start which was 10,000 tests a day by the end of March.”
He said the UK has the stocks of PPE, but that the challenge has been the distribution.
“I think that we were well equipped and well prepared and we have been working night and day to respond to the specific problems that we have with this virus.”
Mr Hancock added that the government was considering issuing people with immunity certificates once antibody tests are ready for roll out.
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