The whole population could get regular coronavirus tests as standard as part of a future strategy to ease lockdown, and the Health Secretary claimed a huge project is underway in Government to swamp the country with tests for everyone, even those who have no coronavirus symptoms.
However, Matt Hancock declined to spell out any specific details of his plan or set a deadline for it, saying only testing would be ramped up over the remainder of this year.
It also comes after the Government repeatedly grappled to meet other pledges on testing earlier this year. Yesterday 150,000 tests were carried out in the United Kingdom.
However, it’s not clear how his ambitious pledge would be financed or whether it would apply to devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but Matt Hancock claimed if the moon shot works, it could allow some of the remaining constraints on businesses, and meeting family and friends, to be lifted.
The Health Secretary stated that mass testing, population testing, where they make it the norm that people get tested regularly, will enable them to, therefore, give some people their freedoms back, and that it’s a huge project in Government right now.
It comes after researchers found up to 72 per cent of people who tested positive for coronavirus did not have symptoms and the Office for National Statistics announced the group didn’t report symptoms at the time of a swab test for COVID 19.
However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said figures were unknown because symptoms were self-reported, and some forms may be blank and the sample size was also small with only 165 people who tested positive so the margin for error was pretty wide.
Currently, tests need to be sent off to a lab and it takes time to turn around, making regular mass testing difficult and Matt Hancock stated his plan will only work if new, much faster tests, such as one that can deliver a result in ten minutes, pass the evaluation at Porton Down.
He said that some of them you only have to use saliva rather than having a swab all the way down the back of your throat, meaning anyone can administer it or self administer it.
Some of them don’t need a lab on the test, which means you don’t need to send it off and get it back and with the best ones you get the results in ten minutes.
But he added that he wasn’t going to put a firm deadline on it and that they were going as fast as they could, working with dozens of companies, both homegrown and international, to get the very best testing capacity.
And that this moon shot to have testing ubiquitous and ready to reopen all sorts of things to decrease the burden of the quarantine arrangements, to enable them to reopen parts of the market, that was an especially significant project in Government right now.
Separately, England’s weekly coronavirus survey would be hugely expanded in an effort to find more people who are spreading COVID 19 without symptoms and the infection survey would increase from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight in England to 150,000 by October.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey presently intends to increase to include 400,000 people and ministers are also working with Heathrow Airport to obtain a way for coronavirus testing to reduce the quarantine period.
Studies for the government’s scientific advisors have suggested people could be tested twice, once at the border and again about a week later, to cut the 14-day isolation down to 10 or 8 days.
However, Matt Hancock said the details are still being worked out, as any system can’t let many sufferers through the cracks and it’s been reported that Cabinet Ministers will meet next week to discuss strategies to replace blanket quarantines with COVID 19 testing for travellers.
Documents released on Friday from Sage’s June 18 meeting showed the scientific group found that double testing of travellers significantly reduced the chance of false negatives and could enable quarantine duration of less than 14 days.
It comes as Gordon Brown launches a campaign to promote science jobs and research as part of the COVID 19 economic recovery.
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the former Prime Minister will call on MPs, local leaders, unions and businesses to back staying inside Horizon, a European research and science programme that pioneers medical, environmental and hi-tech research.
The ex-Labour leader said the COVID related jobs crisis means maintaining and generating new jobs and is the biggest economic challenge we will encounter across the United Kingdom in the next few months.
And people across Britain have a realistic perception of the big financial problem now facing us and is about solving the job crisis and it’s about whether you’re for full employment across our regions and nations, not whether you’re for or against Europe.
And the science and jobs benefit of Horizon membership to our universities and to high-quality ancillary companies will be essential to our four-nation COVID economic recovery plan.
Gordon Brown, who speaks at the festival on Friday, will be joined on the virtual platform by European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans and he’s expected to confirm the EU wants to maintain scientific research and development with British universities, despite Brexit.
I feel a huge blob of déjà vu coming because it wasn’t that long ago when Matt Hancock was telling everyone that we were going to have a world-beating Test and Trace app. However, what followed was a shambles.
Now here he is again promising what he knows he can’t or won’t deliver. How dumb does he think the British people are? And as that saying goes ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’.
And I’m no conspiracy nutcase but something clearly isn’t right with any Government who’s demanding that we all give what is effectively a sample of our DNA to them and now people are saying that this isn’t about the virus, it’s about a New World Order and Agenda 21 but it’s a pretty good way to lock the world down in the name of a virus.
And isn’t it illegal by International Human Rights law for a Government or anybody come to that to force another human being to undergo any medical procedure, including test and vaccination without there informed consent?
But since when have our Government’s given a drat about legality? And will a Tory contributor be profiting from the sale of these mass testing kits?