The UK government emailed a statement out today that they would begin to study participants that represent the British population and publish their findings in early May. Participants from 20,000 households will provide a nose and throat swab to test for whether or not they currently have the virus. Meanwhile, adults in some 1,000 of the households will provide a blood sample to find out what proportion of the population has developed the antibodies to Covid-19.
Since becoming ill with severe coronavirus symptoms, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been led by Dominic Raab and their response to the pandemic has faced scrutiny for the lack of coronavirus testing.
The director-general of the World Health Organisation has said that testing should be the “backbone” of the response to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Although trials will begin today to find a vaccine that will cure the virus at Oxford University, it could still take months to be distributed.
In the meantime, the government is seeking to prepare an exit strategy for the lockdown that began on March 23, without it causing a second wave of casualties.
So far 18,000 people in the UK have died from the coronavirus, and it is still uncertain whether the peak of the virus has occurred or is yet to come.
Chris Whitty the UK’s Chief Medical Officer has said that the goal now is to reduce the transmission rate to below 1, which would mean that COVID 19 is only passed on to less than one other person.
Although restrictions in the future may be relaxed, Mr Whitty has warned that normal life will still include restrictions for a while yet.
Some have even suggested that the UK could take a year to return to life pre lockdown.
“As the transmission rate comes down, we need to get more data as to precisely where it is, in order to inform the measures we can actively consider,” said Dominic Raab on Wednesday.
Before adding: “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got that evidence before we start touting around ideas.”
Ministers have insisted they would meet their target of testing 100,000 people per day by the end of April.
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However, the leader of the Labour opposition Sir Keir Starmer asked how it was possible for the UK to go from 18,000 tests a day to 100,000 by the end of April.
In the first virtual Prime Ministers questions held yesterday in the empty Commons chamber, MPs asked questions through video conference.
Boris Johnson joined in while recovering from COVID-19 at the prime minister’s Chequers country estate.
Sir Keir said the UK has been “very slow and way behind other European countries” when it comes to testing.
“All week we have heard from the front line, from care workers who are frankly desperate for tests,” he told Mr Raab,
Mr Raab responded that testing has been far lower than expected but the government are making test accessibility easier.
He said: ”I’ve set the goal of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month and I’m delighted to say that the expansion of capacity is ahead of plans, even though demand has, thus far, been lower than expected.
“We are therefore ramping up the availability of this testing and expanding who is eligible for testing, and making it easier to access the tests.”
Sir Keir hit back that testing had been low because the testing centres are miles away and NHS staff were unable to use public transport because of social distancing regulations.
“It is little wonder we are seeing these pictures of half-empty testing centres,” added the Labour leader.
Mr Raab acknowledged there were challenges, but added: “The key point is, it is important to have a target and drive towards a target.”
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