Boris Johnson last night promised a ‘massive’ expansion of rapid turnaround tests in an effort to reduce the prevalence of the virus.
The Prime Minister announced plans to draft in the Army to oversee the roll-out of tests for ‘whole cities’ within days to ‘drive down the disease’.
Fast turnaround tests, which have been trialled in various hospitals as well as care homes, schools and universities, will be available imminently across the country, he said.
They could be conducted at home, or elsewhere, and give a result in a matter of minutes.
‘We now have the immediate prospect of using many millions of cheap, reliable and, above all, rapid turnaround tests,’ he told the Downing Street press conference.
‘Over next few days, weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests, applying them in an ever-growing number of situations from helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth, to testing whole towns and even whole cities.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown for England on Saturday. The measure will start from Thursday and is expected to last until December 2
Johnson has promised a ‘massive’ expansion of rapid turnaround tests in an effort to reduce the prevalence of the virus [File photo]
‘Working with local communities, local government, public health directors, organisations of all kinds to help people discover whether or not they’re infectious and then immediately to get them to self-isolate and stop the spread of the disease.’
He added: ‘We know from trials across the country, in schools and hospitals, that we can use these tests, not just to locate infections in people, but to drive down the disease.’
Among the tests being rolled out are ‘lamp’ tests, short for loop-mediated isothermal amplification, a swab and saliva method which delivers results in 60 to 90 minutes.
Unlike the ‘gold-standard’ PCR testing system, lamp tests do not need to be processed in a lab.
Separately, lateral flow tests, which use the same technology commonly used for pregnancy tests, can detect antibodies in a patient’s blood indicating that they have Covid-19 or have had the disease and recovered.
Fast turnaround tests, which have been trialled in various hospitals as well as care homes, schools and universities, will be available imminently across the country, Johnson said [File image]
They require a drop of blood from a finger prick and can provide results in 15 minutes. Like lamp tests, they do not need to be sent off to a lab for analysis.
The Government announced earlier this month that a new trial of lamp and lateral flow tests is taking place in seven hospitals across England where they are testing asymptomatic staff to catch infections early.
In a second series of pilot schemes, care homes, schools and universities in the North of England have been sent lateral-flow test kits.
The promise to increase testing capacity comes after it emerged Ministers have hugely scaled back coronavirus testing aims from nearly two million a day to around one million.
Officials had planned to expand the testing regime from roughly 500,000 a day at the end of October to 1.9 million by the end of the year.
But the scheme has been beset by problems, including delays in the process of validating new technologies, according to the Financial Times.
The Department of Health will instead focus on reaching the 10 per cent of the population at the greatest risk of infection in order to lower the R number.