Where are the tests?

The UK is lagging behind on coronavirus tests

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Why is the UK not conducting more coronavirus tests?

By Joe Harker

The last day of March saw the number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK jump up by 381, the first day of April saw 563 more deaths.

The official figures mark over 25,000 confirmed cases but the actual number will be much higher as there has been a lack of testing. Thousands of Brits have have either had the virus and recovered after self-isolation or are currently isolated with symptoms do not show up on the statistics.

More Brits have been infected and died from Covid-19 than the official numbers show and wider testing is needed to paint a clearer picture of the situation.

The Claim:

Dr Anthony Costello, a former director of the World Health Organisation, condemned the UK for failing to test for the virus on a wider scale.

He said the government should have recognised weeks ago that a massive increase in testing would be needed to tackle the virus and moved sooner to increase capacity.

He also noted that the UK has plenty of molecular virology labs which could be conducting hundreds of tests a day but aren't, arguing that the UK could be testing on a scale similar to Germany if it made proper use of available resources and had acted sooner.

In the early stages of responding to the coronavirus the government dithered, wasting time which is all too precious a resource now and bouncing between incorrect strategies until they learned enough from their mistakes to land on the right approach.

Attempts to mitigate the spread of the virus and an initial focus on the now discredited "herd immunity" strategy consumed time which could have been spent buying testing kits and working out the logistics of testing hundreds of thousands of people a week.

They did not prepare to increase the supply of testing kits and they did not prepare to turn laboratories towards testing, now the UK is near the back of the queue for kit and capacity.

The Counter Claim:

The government knows they were far too slow to adopt the "test, test, test" strategy, with cabinet minister Robert Jenrick admitting "we will obviously learn lessons" from recent weeks.

They also know more testing will help outline the scale of the problem and get NHS staff back on the frontlines where they can treat patients.

Many doctors and nurses are in self-isolation at the moment either because they are showing symptoms or a member of their household is, reducing the NHS's ability to tackle the pandemic, but estimates from NHS Providers suggest up to 85 per cent would have a negative result if tested.

NHS staff are front of the queue when it comes to conducting tests but there need to be more tests done full stop.

Michael Gove admitted the UK would need to be faster when it came to increasing the capacity for testing, with the cabinet minister saying a global shortage of chemicals needed for the tests causing problems when it comes to buying more.

Increasing the UK's capacity for testing is a priority for the government with a view to conducting 25,000 tests a day by mid to late April.

The Facts:

The UK's capacity for testing coronavirus currently stands at around 12,750 a day, though it is struggling to test more than 10,000 people each day. The government would like to be testing 15,000 people a day by the end of this week.

Right now NHS staff and those admitted to hospital with severe symptoms are being tested for Covid-19, though the BBC reports that many doctors and nurses "still have no idea" where and how their testing is going to be conducted.

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Independent

UK's failure to carry out mass coronavirus testing condemned by WHO expert

The UK's failure to mass test for coronavirus has been condemned by a World Health Organisation expert, who revealed 44 laboratories had been left idle.

Ministers and scientists should have recognised weeks ago that a South Korean-style blitz - reducing the death rate there to just three per million - was the correct response, Anthony Costello said.

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