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Independents' Day

Healthcare workers with early symptoms set to be tested for Covid-19

The Government is set to scale up testing, including early testing for healthcare workers and testing for asymptomatic individuals on whether they have already had the disease, the chief medical officer has announced.

In the first daily briefing by the Prime Minister, the CMO Professor Chris Whitty said that they are continuing to scale up testing on a weekly basis.

He added that Public Health England is ‘rapidly developing’ a test for whether people have already had the disease.

GPs have expressed concerns around testing for practice staff, with testing being predominantly carried out in hospitals.

Responding to a question on the World Health Organization’s declaration that some countries were not doing enough testing, Professor Whitty said: ‘We agree with the secretary general that testing is absolutely essential.

‘We do intend to scale up testing. But I think it is important to realise the scale of UK testing, which has been substantial. There have been 44,000 tests conducted and we will continue to scale up the testing every week.’

He added that the current tests are only for people who currently have the disease. He said: ‘The thing that will be transformational will be a test to reliably tell us if someone has previously had the disease so we can find out what proportion of people get this infection without symptoms. Currently such a test is not reliable, but it is being developed very rapidly by Public Health England.’

When asked about the testing of healthcare workers, Professor Whitty said: ‘Once we have the capacity to do this - which we are going towards very fast - healthcare and other critical workers [will be tested] early on in their illness. If they end up having the symptoms, but not coronavirus, then they will be able to go back to work, which is good for the NHS, good for society.

‘If they have got it, at least you know they have got it and won’t get it again. So a positive or negative test are therefore useful for the service so there is a very strong incentive to get this out as fast as we can practically manage it.’

In the same briefing, the Prime Minister announced a series of ‘drastic measures’, including extreme social distancing measures for elderly patients and those with underlying health issues.

Readers' comments (17)

  • Great news !

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  • The cynical in me suggests the rationale for this is actually to keep health workers at the coal face!

    No doubt argue a -ve result means a prompt early return??

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  • When ? Bloody well get on with it.

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  • David Banner

    Why not IMMEDIATELY!!
    We have staff in lockdown for 2 weeks with NO idea if they are infected or not.
    So they’re off 2 weeks, return none the wiser, then catch another virus, then off ANOTHER 2 weeks!
    And when family members show symptoms, that’s the whole house on lockdown.
    If they test health care workers with symptoms we can either get back to work, or self isolate 2 weeks then return with confidence.
    The BMA , RCGP etc must demand testing for us IMMEDIATELY, or within a month Primary Care will be shut.

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  • Are we playing Test Match cricket here, or does someone want to hasten some speed?

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  • Needed now. With possible case contact isolation and updated pregnancy advice on the national news, we will be down by 4 GPs from today. We need clear and specific central guidance as GPs, backed up by rapid testing yet feel we have been largely abandoned...

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  • Feelings the same Iain Chalmers. It is hard not to be cynical being an experienced GP having been bitten many times.

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  • Would be good to see the unscrupulous few with a 2h cough having to cut short their self-isolation period!

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  • Is advice only clear when you agree with it?

    There is a lot which is unclear and unknown, but the advice is what it is.

    There will always be gaps, or difficulties in following advice, but now might be a time to try to work with your own team to decide what steps you need within the guidance given.

    We all need to work to pragmatic practice, patient and staff centered solutions

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  • Who is to blame for this lack of direction and slowness to test?
    Is it the political leaders or their medical advisors

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