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Government to 'dramatically' ramp up coronavirus testing for NHS frontline workers

More frontline NHS staff will be tested for coronavirus.

3 min read

Ministers are to dramatically increase the number of NHS staff being tested for the coronavirus, it has been announced.

An alliance of businesses, research institutes and universities has been set up to ramp up the availability of the vital kit needed to boost testing capacity.

Hundreds more tests will take place this weekend, with the number being dramatically increased from next week.

The move follows intense criticism of the lack of testing carried out on frontline health workers treating coronavirus sufferers.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove made the announcement at the daily Downing Street press conference.

He was forced to step in after both Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock announced they had tested positive for the potentially-deadly illness.

Mr Gove said increasing the testing of NHS workers would allow them to establish whether they are fit to return to their jobs.

He said: “Increasing our testing capacity is absolutely crucial in our response to, and our fight against, coronavirus.

“This is a particular priority for those who work in the health and social care sectors, and are working so hard to keep us all safe.

“This will be antigen testing, testing whether people currently have the disease, so that our health and social care workers can have security in the knowledge that they are safe to return to work if the test is negative.”

Mr Gove added: “These tests will be trialled for people on the front-line, starting immediately, with hundreds due to take place by the end of the weekend, dramatically scaling up next week.” 

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said: "From an NHS perspective, we think it is urgently important that we are able to test frontline workers who are off sick or otherwise isolating.

"That's why the work that Public Health England has been leading is so important because it means we are going to be able to double this time next week the number of tests we have been doing this week.

"I can say that today we will be rolling out staff testing across the NHS, starting next week with the critical care nurses, other staff in intensive care, emergency departments, ambulance services, GPs.

"As testing volumes continue to increase, we want to widen that to essential public service workers, as well as our social care workers, and continue with patient testing that is so vital."

The announcement came as the latest figures showed that the spread of the virus continues to gather pace across the country.

A total of 14,579 people have tested positive, up 2,921 in the past 24 hours.

And the number of fatalities increased by 181 over the same period to 759.


Meanwhile, Sir Simon confirmed more temporary hospitals are to be built in response to the epidemic.

One is already under construction at the ExCel Centre in east London, and he revealed the others will be at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and the Manchester Central convention centre.

Others are expected to follow as the outbreak continues, the NHS boss said.

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