Matt Hancock Reveals Plans for Mass Coronavirus Testing

The UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has given an update on the government’s plans for introducing mass coronavirus testing. This is thought by many to be key to preventing a second wave of the deadly virus whilst avoiding another lockdown, due to the high number of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Matt Hancock
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Matt Hancock

Speaking on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Matt Hancock said:

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This is a really, really important drive that we have across Government to bring in mass testing, population-wide testing. The new technologies for testing that are coming on stream now are incredibly important. At the moment you have to send off a test to a laboratory and get it back, and all the logistics of that takes time; it’s also quite expensive.

Detailing the plans for new tests, the Health Secretary continued:

Some of them you only have to use saliva rather than having a swab all the way down the back of your throat, which means that anybody can administer it or self administer it much easier. Some of them they don’t need a lab on the test which means you don’t have to send it off and get it back — with the best ones you get the results in 10 minutes.

It is hoped that mass testing would allow the UK to identify asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 and prevent a catastrophic second wave without resorting to strict lockdown measures again. Mr Hancock said that the 'huge project' of mass testing has 'enormous support' in Government.

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However, he failed to give a conclusive answer when asked when the mass testing programme would become available to the public, saying only:

We’re ramping it up over the remainder of this year. I’m not going to put a firm deadline on it. The answer is we’re working as fast as we can.

Currently, anybody in the UK experiencing coronavirus symptoms can either get a home test kit or go to a testing site. In England you can also get tested before hospital visits or if asked to by your local council. However, a recent study showed that up to 72% people with coronavirus may have no symptoms at all - meaning many people could be spreading the virus without realising they have it.

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