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Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the UK has hit it’s target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests a day by the end of April. 

Prof Rowland Kao, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science, University of Edinburgh, said:

“While the government’s stated commitment to increased testing levels has always been welcome, this commitment should be based on an evidence-based assessment of testing needs – most importantly, testing that is sufficient to assess the risks around health care workers and vulnerable populations, and where tests identify potentially infectious individuals, to work in conjunction with contact tracing to reduce further spread. Assessing whether or not these risks are appropriately mitigated is best helped by consistent methods of reporting of the numbers of tests being delivered.”

 

Steve Bates, Chief Executive, Bioindustry Association (BIA), said:

“It’s gratifying to see the Government recognises the major role the UK life sciences industry has played in the collaborative, speedy and innovative national effort to increase testing capability.

“Companies large and small have played their part in building new testing labs, sharing kit, people and materials and contributing to crowd sourcing new testing methods.

“This way of working needs to become the new normal because much more testing at pace and scale across the UK will be needed in the coming months. It’s vital that further innovative approaches like next generation sequencing and saliva and stool sampling are put at the centre of the next stage of the COVID-19 testing strategy.”

 

Prof Gordon Dougan, Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre, Cambridge University, said:

“We run a testing lab at Cambridge University Hospital looking after healthcare workers. If you are testing it helps if:

1. You can turn the result round in hours rather than days,

2. Once you get the test result back, someone is in a position to do something about it. This means the person positive should isolate but then also contact tracing to test anyone else who might be in the transmission line. Many people are asymptomatic. People get the disease from someone and pass it on to someone else.

“This sounds easy but it is not straight forward. The numbers are useful but follow up is essential.”

 

Dr Alexander Edwards, an associate professor in biomedical technology in the School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy at the University of Reading, said:

“The expansion of testing capacity is welcome and I congratulate all those working hard on the ground to scale up in the face of so many barriers, whether the obvious supply chain problems – can we get kits and instruments? – or the many hidden obstacles such as vital quality control, workplace safety when handling infected samples, recruiting and training new staff.

“The 100,000 test target should not be the focus. What’s essential is a sustainable, coordinated programme that can identify as many actively infected individuals as possible and to trace their contacts to build a targeted programme that restricts spread. This is made harder by the realisation that people may be infectious even before symptoms arise. It’s also very difficult because there are still very large numbers of new cases daily, even if this number is finally falling.

“It is welcome to see so much active innovation to improve testing processes. New crowdsourcing communities, volunteering networks and collaboration between different expert diagnostic communities is exciting, alongside major diagnostics research programs.

“Home sampling for example is a big step forward- a major research focus at Reading is to find ways to simplify testing and make it easier to access; this will hopefully reduce bottlenecks where people who are unwell have to travel to get tested. Whilst this is already technically possible, the reality is it’s not easy to rapidly roll out home testing safely at scale, so more hard work is required.”

“Any home sampling or home testing system must be carefully validated to ensure not only gives the same results as a test centre, but it is easy to use, and these validation studies are challenging.”

 

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink: www.sciencemediacentre.org/tag/covid-19

Declared interests

Prof Gordon Dougan: We run a testing lab at Cambridge University Hospital

Steve Bates: Chief Executive, of the Bioindustry Association

MIL OSI United Kingdom