The government has confirmed that so far, only 2,000 NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus. To put that in context, there are 1.3 million full-time equivalent staff working for NHS England.
This means that just over 0.15% of the NHS workforce has so far been tested for the virus that its workers are putting their lives at risk to treat.
Medical workers say tests need to be urgently increased with government ministers admitting tests must be ramped up as soon as possible.
This morning, housing secretary Robert Jenrick claimed that 15,000 people will be tested per day by the end of the week, but the promised 25,000 tests per day won’t be carried out until mid-April.
Critics have pointed to other countries who are managing to test far greater numbers in efforts to stop the spread of the disease, including in Germany where 500,000 Covid-19 tests are carried out each week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing today: ‘In terms of NHS frontline staff who have been tested overall, it’s now over 2,000 and staff will be getting the results fed back to them over the next few days.’
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He later added: ‘We’re very clear that we want more testing to be carried out, and that we are working with NHS England, Public Health England and others to ensure that happens.’
NHS staff have expressed frustration that they are being forced to self-isolate just as they are most needed, because tests are not available to show whether they are clear of the disease.
The Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association all say testing of frontline staff is desperately needed.
Critics have also warned that mass community testing is the only safe way of lifting the lockdown without risking a fresh outbreak of the virus.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said at Tuesday’s Downing Street press conference the UK must go ‘further, faster’ to ramp up coronavirus testing capacity.
But Mr Gove said a ‘critical constraint’ on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity in the UK is the availability of chemical reagents.
But the Chemical Industries Association insisted it has the chemicals to be able to make tests and said they ‘are being manufactured and delivered to the NHS’.
A spokesperson said: ‘Every business here in the UK and globally is looking at what they can do to help meet the demand as a matter of urgency.’
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