All seems a bit muddled to Owl. Is the blame game over the 100,000 testing target causing a diversion from focusing on real issues? Shouldn’t we be building a country-wide Public Health tracing and testing capability, based on the 5,000 contact tracing experts already employed by councils?
“Almost half of Britain’s capacity is going to waste, with ministers risking a row with the health service by pinning responsibility on a “lack of demand” among frontline workers.”
Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor | Kat Lay, Health Correspondent | Eleni Courea, Political Reporter www.thetimes.co.uk
Home coronavirus swab tests delivered by Amazon are being tested as a way out of lockdown amid finger-pointing over who is to blame for unused testing capacity.
Almost half of Britain’s capacity is going to waste, with ministers risking a row with the health service by pinning responsibility on a “lack of demand” among frontline workers.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has pledged that 100,000 tests a day would be carried out by the end of the month. The government says that there is capacity to do 35,000 a day but only 18,665 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday.
To boost the numbers the government is looking at testing other key workers such as the police, prison staff and firefighters, as well as studying whether more regular testing for some health staff is needed.
The Times understands that a pilot is beginning this week of a home-testing service using Amazon logistics that sends swabs to people’s homes and tells them to take a sample from their throats an hour before they are picked up. Results are sent back by text message, with the aim of completing the process in less than 48 hours. The scheme is separate from the attempt, so far unsuccessful, to find a home antibody test that shows who has recovered from the virus.
The pilot will begin with key workers. But with mass testing and contact tracing of suspected cases considered key to eventually exiting lockdown, the government wants to make the present swab test available to people self- isolating at home once restrictions start to be lifted.
The move comes amid frustration over why the capacity is not being fully used. Whitehall officials believe that all NHS staff who are self-isolating could be checked today if they came forward.
They have criticised health service delays in putting doctors and nurses forward, insisting that tests are available for those who need them, and hinting at a reluctance among some to be checked and return to the front line.
However, doctors’ leaders insist that demand outstrips supply, blaming a failure to make swabs convenient and available to staff, including by using drive-through centres that ill workers may find difficult to get to. They have also said that there is confusion about eligibility for testing.