NHS set to ramp up COVID-19 testing
The NHS and Public Health England (PHE) are planning to significantly increase the number of daily coronavirus testing to 10,000. 25,000 tests have been conducted so far.
PHE has developed a highly sensitive test to detect the virus, which has been rapidly rolled out to their regional labs across the country.
Approximately 1,500 tests are being processed every day at PHE labs with the great majority of tests being turned around within 24 hours.
As more people come forward to be tested, the NHS is now scaling up tests by 500 per cent, with NHS England asking expert NHS laboratory services across the country to bring new capacity online, and other labs to begin checks, enabling 8,000 more samples to be analysed every day of the week.
As well as testing people who meet the criteria for being at risk, the NHS and PHE are also carrying out surveillance testing on others, including people in wards and surgeries showing signs of the virus, learning lessons from abroad and helping the UK to gain a better picture, earlier of the spread of the virus.
Professor Dame Sue Hill, NHS Chief Scientific Officer, said: “The NHS is ramping up the number of testing centres across the country, to help people get care quickly or have their mind put at ease.”
She also encouraged the public to help the country stay safe by practicing good hygiene and washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds.
Commenting on the news, Professor Sharon Peacock, Director of the National Infection Service, Public Health England, said: “Wider testing is important as it will help to manage demand as the number of people being tested increases in the coming weeks,” he continued, “this will ensure that PHE and the NHS have the most robust system possible to understand what is happening with the virus.”
The additional resource to process more tests will mean local hospital labs will join specialist services, including those already provided by PHE, in being able to accurately detect the presence of the new virus, with learning and technology shared across NHS services nationwide.
As of 14:00 on 11 March 2020, 27,020 people have been tested in the UK, of which 25,888 were confirmed negative and 456 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.