Government to Trial Home Testing Kits for Chinese Coronavirus

Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty attends a news conference addressing the government's response to the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, at 10 Downing Street in London on March 12, 2020. - Britain on Thursday said up to 10,000 people in the UK could be infected with the novel coronavirus …

The government is trialling coronavirus testing kits which, if they work, will be rolled out to National Health Service (NHS) staff, and may eventually be available for public use.

Speaking at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s daily coronavirus briefing, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said: “Testing in intensive cares and in hospitals is being scaled up. The thing we would like to do next is being able to test NHS and other critical workers who are self-isolating.”

Pointing to antibody testing which confirms whether a person has had the virus and is immune, the adviser continued: “Our next priority is to get workers back to work. Once we have more testing, then we want to go out to test people with mild symptoms, we obviously want to go wider.

“There are other tests we will want to have, that have not been evaluated, but will be able to tell if someone has had the virus. That will allow us to tell people, ‘You have had the infection, it is likely you will be protected by this.'”

The medical adviser clarified, however, that the tests would not get as far as NHS frontline staff unless they passed strict standards, saying: “The one thing worse than no test is a bad test.”

On the point of public ability, he said: “I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this is something we’ll be ordering from the Internet in a matter of weeks.”

He added: “We need to go through the evaluation, then the first critical uses, and then spread it out from that point of view. We need to do that in a systematic way.”

Whitty made the remarks after the director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service appeared to tell MPs at the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee that chemists and Amazon will be stocking and selling 3.5 million tests within days, and that checking they actually worked was only a “small matter”.

Professor Sharon Peacock said in comments reported by The Guardian: “Several million tests have been purchased for use. These are brand new products. We have to be clear they work as they are claimed to do.”

She added: “Once we are assured that they do work, they will be rolled out into the community. Testing the test is a small matter, and I anticipate that it will be done by the end of this week.

“In the near future people will be able to order a test that they can test themselves, or go to Boots, or somewhere similar to have their finger prick test done.”

Asked whether they would be available in days, rather than weeks or months, she affirmed: “Yes, absolutely.”

As of March 24th, 90,436 Britons have been tested, with 82,359 being found negative and  8,077 confirmed positive. 422 patients have died of coronavirus. The government aims to increase the number of tests to 25,000 a day within the next four weeks as the country heads towards the expected peak of the pandemic.

The news comes as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that the NHS is now likely to cope with the worst of the pandemic when it hits in three weeks’ time as a result of the government enforcing a lockdown and revealing plans for a 4,000-bed field hospital at the ExCel convention centre in London.

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