Britain plans to put in place regular population-wide COVID-19 testing so that it can suppress the spread of the virus and limit restrictions that have crippled one of the world’s worst-affected countries .
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was testing a range of new, faster tests that could give instant results and hoped to roll them out towards the end of the year.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the pandemic, with critics saying it was too slow to go into lockdown and too slow to roll out tests to know how far the virus had gone. spread.
It now has the highest death toll in Europe and the deepest economic contraction of a large advanced economy.
“Mass testing, population testing, where we make sure people are tested on a regular basis, which therefore allows us to allow certain freedoms to be returned, is a huge government project right now,” Hancock said. on BBC Radio.
He said the country’s research labs at Porton Down are testing new saliva tests that don’t need to go to a lab, so they can provide faster results.
“There are new technologies coming on the right track that we are buying and testing now,” he said. “We will definitely increase it for the rest of the year.”
The government has been criticized during the pandemic for promising new developments which then take much longer to arrive, such as the arrival of protective clothing for health workers or a comprehensive tracking and tracing system.
The government says it currently has a testing capacity of over 335,000 people. Cases in Britain have started to rise again in recent weeks with more than 1,000 positive results in eight of the past 10 days.
The government also said on Wednesday it would expand a test study conducted by the Bureau of National Statistics from 28,000 people to 150,000 by October and ultimately 400,000 to help build a better national picture of the pandemic and spot local outbreaks. .