An update on testing for Covid-19
At present, only hospital patients with flu-like symptoms are being tested for Covid-19. In a recent update, the government said that they want to increase testing for Covid-19 over the course of a few months.
However, the UK government have been widely criticised for failing to continue community testing, especially for NHS staff and other key workers, without whom the nation’s essential facilities would cease to function. And, because a lack of testing means that many people might be self-isolating for no good reason, and others might be spreading the infection unknowingly.
Currently, between 5,000 and 6,000 patients are being tested daily. But, the UK government has said that it wants to increase this figure by the end of March, raising it to 10,000 daily, and then 25,000 by the end of April.
Last week, it was announced that the UK government were sourcing home testing kits in order to roll out a mass testing scheme.
The process currently being used to test for Covid-19 is known as a PCR test; a swab has to be taken to the lab and put through a machine. But scientists are trying to develop a test which can check whether someone has had the disease in the past.
This could help authorities to work out how widespread the disease has been and whether people are safe to go back to work.
The government said it has bought 3.5 million of these tests and plans to make them available “very soon”, if they can be proved to work.
However, according to the government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, these will not be available immediately. He said:
“I do not think – and I want to be clear – that this is something we’ll suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.”
Private testing kits are available online, but Public Health England advises against using them, as they are not considered to be reliable enough.