Great Britain

Boris Johnson vows to test as many people as possible to end lockdown after kit chaos – and one MILLION on the way


BORIS Johnson last night vowed to end the coronavirus lockdown with testing for as many people as possible - after a huge day of chaos over ordering kits.

The PM told the nation for the first time that the Government's exit strategy did involve a mass roll-out of testing - even though Britain is STILL not doing 10,000 a day.

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Today it was revealed that one MILLION kits were on the way, after days of confusion.

In a bit to quell a heated row over the lack of tests, the PM uploaded a video of him isolating in No11 Downing Street last night.

He admitted the country needed to “massively ramp-up” two forms of testing - one to see whether they have it now, and another to identify those who have had the disease in the past so they can return to work safely.

That will enable frontline NHS staff and other workers crucial to the battle against coronavirus to avoid wasting time self-isolating at home when they don’t have the bug.

Mr Johnson said a mass roll-out of both forms of tests was the “way through” and is “how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle, this is how we will defeat it in the end.”

Only 8,000 were done yesterday too - and just 2,000 desperate health workers have had their tests.

This morning health minister Nadine Dorries, who herself caught and has recovered from the virus, said this morning: "Once mass testing available, we can release and isolate, depending on results.

"We are competing for tests which didn't even exist a short while ago... supply is difficult but out first 1m en route to us now."

Yesterday testing facilities in North London faced huge queues - but workers were turned away for not having appointments.

The Health Secretary has ordered any spare capacity to be used to test NHS workers to urgently get them back to the frontline fight.

This morning Paul Cosford of Public Health England said that a new coronavirus testing project is being set up that could check 100,000 people a day.

The 100,000 proposed tests are the much sought-after "antigen" tests which show if someone currently has the virus.

Public Health England want to reach 25,000 a day by the middle of April, No10 has said.

He also said the lockdown was "nowhere near" ending as the number of cases is to carry on rising.

He warned Brits to huncker down for the long haul, despite initial data that the lockdown is having an effect.

Prof Cosford told the BBC that if cases come down measures could be "reviewed and in due course perhaps lightened a little - but we're nowhere near being able to say that."

Britain's death toll rose by more than 500 yesterday - and is predicted to hit 1,000 a day by the weekend.

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Mr Johnson faced calls to launch a Dunkirk-style mobilisation of Britain’s labs, universities and pharmaceutical companies to build the tests Britain needs to beat coronavirus, MPs and experts said last night.

Industry leaders said Britain has plenty of chemicals and raw materials needed to make the kit but the problem lies in the lack of manufacturing capacity needed to combine the ingredients to produce the end product.

And Public Health England has caused a further hold-up by authorising less than 60 laboratories to test the kits - despite the UK having more than 600 medically accredited labs.

Before February 10 it was only testing the kit in one lab in North London.

Last night there were signs the UK Government was finally taking these demands on board after Health Secretary Matt Hancock held an urgent call with industry leaders to find new “innovative solutions” to grow Britain’s testing capacity.

Mr Hancock said last night: “I've called together our pharmaceutical giants and testing specialists to call on them to build a scale of diagnostic capability never before seen in this country.

"It is a huge task but they know they have the full support of this Government as we work towards this common goal in the national interest, as part of our national effort to tackle coronavirus.

"No stone must be left unturned in our search for greater testing prowess.”

Doris-Ann Willliams, head of the diagnostics industry group BIVDA, told The Sun: “There are plenty of chemicals and raw materials to make the kit. But the bottleneck is in global manufacturing.

"There is huge demand – it is a bit of a bun fight.

“If you think of the chemicals as eggs, butter, flour and sugar to make a cake, they have got plenty in the kitchen – but they have got to combine them in the right order to make the kit.

“There is more than one reagent in a kit – they have got to produce several types of cake if you like, and they have to make sure it works and produces correct results.

“Nobody has manufacturing capacity for the amount of demand that we are suddenly seeing, in the same way we have not got the number of hospital beds or ventilators.”

Professor Hugh Pennington from Aberdeen University said the two main ingredients of nucleotides and enzymes are readily available and making the reagents is “quite straightforward”.

He said there was no reason why the UK Government couldn’t repurpose a factory and make its own uniform test, telling The Sun: "I don't understand what the problem is when you have a national emergency. These are not super super rare chemicals.”

He added: “I can’t understand why they can’t get their act together.”

The dual problem has triggered calls on the PM to immediately step in to organise a more coordinated and sped-up approach and to rip up PHE’s overly centralised, red tape diktaks on testing, which has delayed mass roll-out.

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