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Matt Hancock draws up ‘moon shot’ plan to expand coronavirus testing in bid to track asymptomatic carriers

The government is reportedly aiming for testing at the rate of “millions a day”. (PA)

2 min read

The Health Secretary is considering “moon shot” plans to get millions of people tested for coronavirus every day by next year in a bid to better track asymptomatic transmission.

The Telegraph reports that Matt Hancock has drafted in consultancy firm Deloitte to work on a mass testing regime aimed at identifying those who have the disease but do not display symptoms.

The UK’s current testing regime requires someone to have one of three symptoms: a high temperate, a new, continuous cough, or a change to their sense of smell or taste. 

But the expansion in capacity being eyed by the Department of Health is reportedly aimed at catching those who are missed by the existing Test and Trace set-up so the country can further ease coronavirus restrictions.

A source told the paper: “It is at an embryonic stage and it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work. 

“It is nicknamed ‘Operation Moon Shot’ because that is what a moon shot is like: it seems very hard but it’s important and we want to land it.”

The latest UK figures show that more than 190,000 people a day are currently being tested for Covid-19 — with capacity for testing standing at more than 326,000.

Sources told The Telegraph that the government is aiming for testing at the rate of “millions a day”, a significant expansion of current capacity.

The Department for Health is said to be considering a series of cheaper and more quickly administered tests to boost numbers, including a 20-minute saliva-based check and a DNA ‘nudge box’ machines, which are already expected to be used in NHS hospitals and can deliver results in 90 minutes.

Mr Hancock’s department has been on the defensive over its Test and Trace efforts in recent weeks, moving to axe national contact tracers in favour of ramping up regional powers under a new “hybrid system”.

The latest figures show that 272,000 people have been reached by the scheme in total, including 78% of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and 88% of their contacts where communication details were provided.

But a report by NHS Providers showed concern among health leaders about the flagship scheme, with just 32% of trusts surveyed saying they believed the programme would “meet the needs of their trusts and the communities they served“ ahead of a crucial winter season for the NHS.

Fewer than one in five (18%) said the Govenrment had the “right approach to testing” — with 70% demanding a greater role in coordinating local testing. 

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