Coronavirus: Why improving testing may not reduce death toll, medical expert warns

Doctor Jenny Harries’ statement comes after Chief Medical Officer Sir Patrick Vallance conceded that more test should’ve been undertaken. Dr Harries has defended the government’s original approach to dealing with the pandemic.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, she described the initial phase of response to the outbreak as “very successful”.

The UK government, now in the “delay“ phase, was originally trying to “contain” the virus’ spread.

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The containment stage involves trying to catch cases early and trace all contacts to avoid the spread of the disease.

At the daily press conference, Dr Harries compared the UK’s rate of infection to Germany’s.

“We are at different phases of the pandemic.

“I think we have rather ended up with a conversation which is a demand on testing without necessarily seeing that causal link.”

Whilst acknowledging that it is important to investigate the link between better testing and reduced death figures, she said: “I think the actual mechanism between the two is still not clear.”

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Dr Harries also declined to say whether the UK had “passed the peak” of the virus.

She said: “I would be very tempted to offer a comment on that today but I’m not going to be, for a number of reasons.”

The Deputy cautioned against reading too much into lower daily death toll figures, which are often retrospectively revised.

She said: “We could jump to all sorts of positive conclusions about that, but we shouldn’t.

“I do think it is fair to say that we do know from the hospital data that we are starting to plateau across.”

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Sir Patrick Vallance told ITV on April 14 that testing was “not scaled as fast as it needs to scale” to match the demands of the pandemic.

He also warned on Sunday that “all new vaccines are a long shot”.

He said: “Only some end up being successful.

“Coronavirus will be no different and presents new challenges for vaccine development.

“This will take time.”

Both the advisors were in agreement over social distancing measures.

Dr Harries concluded at the press briefing by saying: “If we don’t keep doing the social distancing, we will create a second peak and we definitely won’t be past it, so this is no reason to consider that we have managed this.

“But I do think things look to be heading in the right direction.”

The UK has so far seen 120,067 cases of COVID-19, with 16,060 deaths.

In the last 24 hours, the country has seen 596 deaths, compared to last weeks 737.

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