ONE in four Brits could get coronavirus tests in weeks after the government agreed deals to buy 17.5m kits.
The government hopes to use mass testing as a means of identifying hotspots of infection and sees it as key to fighting the virus, which has now killed over 1,000 people in the UK.
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Should the tests pass medical checks, the government will order suppliers to begin making the kits, available for use in mid-April.
Frontline workers in the NHS could also be allowed to return to work with the tests, as well as other key workers such as teachers and police officers.
The tests could also help to shorten the lockdown period.
It comes after the UK is also set to get ‘antibody testing kits’ that will be able to identify those who have had the virus and recovered.
These handy tests will only take 15 minutes and greatly help with the process of contact tracing, which can aid help officials to find contagion hotspots.
A Whitehall source told the Daily Mail: “The top priority is randomised testing to establish how far the disease has spread.
“That is critical to understanding what we are dealing with and shaping our response.”
Mass testing has been implemented successfully in other countries such as Germany, which is testing over 70,000 people a day.
The death toll in the country stands at 395, considerably lower than other European neighbours such as Italy and Spain.
South Korea, initially hit badly by the virus, was quick to test thousands of people and soon brought the outbreak under control.
NHS staff are set to be tested imminently according to Michael Gove, with frontline workers to be given antigen tests to show if they currently have Covid-19.
Addressing the public during the coronavirus press briefing on Friday, he said: “Increasing our testing capacity is absolutely crucial in our response to and our fight against coronavirus.”
STOPPING THE SPREAD
The news comes after the government’s deputy chief medical officer said that restrictions could continue into the autumn.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference, Dr Jenny Harries warned that Brits may not see their lives return to “normal” from the Covid-19 crisis for six months.
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Her stark warning came as the UK’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,228 after another 209 people died from the outbreak today.
Dr Harries said it was impossible to say exactly how long the draconian measures imposed on Brits’ freedom of movement will need to be in place.
Medics and ministers will reassess them every three weeks, but we may face severe restrictions for the long haul, she warned.