The Health Secretary has said that a mass testing and tracking programme to keep transmission rates of the new coronavirus low in Britain is the answer to lifting the coronavirus restrictions. The government has committed to a huge programme of testing, the tracking and tracing contacts of anyone showing symptoms of the coronavirus, who will then be asked to self-isolate for two weeks, which is expected to significantly lower the numbers of people getting the virus. The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has said he is on target to deliver 100,000 tests by the end of April.
A new network of diagnostic laboratories
Sites in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire are now live and are already testing thousands of patient samples for coronavirus (COVID-19) each day. Each individual site took just 3 weeks to complete and begin testing. The new mega-labs are staffed by an army of highly qualified staff and volunteers from industry and academia, drawn from across the country. These groups are working tirelessly to rapidly analyse coronavirus tests for NHS, social care and other frontline workers, allowing those testing negative to safely and quickly return to work. The Lighthouse Labs will test samples from drive through testing sites, with new sites set up nearly each day across the UK. Work is ongoing to set up 50 of these drive-through sites, and there are now 27 in operation, including in Wembley, Manchester and Glasgow. The Government said it is planning to open 50 drive-through testing sites by the end of April with the aim that most people will not have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a regional testing site.
From 6am this morning a web portal has opened for employers to ensure key workers and their families are tested if they showing symptoms. Alternatively, key workers can refer themselves at http://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. They are encouraged to go either to one of drive though sites or apply for a home testing kit which will then be picked up by a courier and sent to a laboratory.
Packages of satellite test kits will also be sent directly to care homes across England to enable testing of symptomatic residents. The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, and can be done by the person themselves or by someone else. Completed samples will be sent to a testing laboratory where they are analysed. The Government said that it is aiming for tests from drive-through sites to be sent out by text within 48 hours and home testing kit results within 72 hours of collection. People will be given advice on any next steps that need to be taken after receiving their results.
Network of new mobile testing units
These have been designed by Army engineers and are being set up to travel to care homes, police stations, prisons and other sites where there is demand for testing.
This approach has worked in many other countries, including South Korea many of whose businesses have managed to continue trading at relative levels of normality. Let’s hope that we achieve the same success in the UK.
A super centre in York will pilot key worker testing this Sunday and then operate from Poppleton Park & Ride site from Monday. A national booking system is in place. A military-operated mobile testing unit in Scarborough for key workers on the coast is also planned. Alongside this, North Yorkshire has been chosen by the Department of Health and Social Care to be part of the home testing pilot – again for essential workers. This means more of our front line critical staff can get back to work more quickly and can carry on delivering vital services to the public.