Today the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, updated the nation on the steps the Government are taking to tackle the Corona Virus Crisis. The Government is currently working through the action plan to protect life and the NHS, and ensuring care is always available to those who need it.
Once we have are sure the NHS can continue to cope, the operational challenges have been met, the daily death rate falls sustainably and consistently, the rate of infection is decreasing, and most importantly when there is no risk of a second peak, the Government will start to use a rigorous programme of test, track and trace. This will keep down the rate of infection and allow us to relax more of the restrictions currently in place.
Matt Hancock set out today the progress made on this programme to date.
In March, the Health Secretary set the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April. Capacity is now ahead of our plans and has increased overnight from 40,000 to 51,000.
Because of this, we can expand who has access to tests. Currently, tests are prioritised for patients in hospitals, then NHS and social care staff and those in care homes. We are quickly and efficiently moving along the right steps to ensure that everyone who needs a test can get one.
We are also making it easier, faster and simpler for any essential worker in England who needs a test to get one. From today, employers of essential workers will be able to go to GOV.UK to get a test for any of their staff who need a test. From tomorrow, any essential workers who need a test, will be able to book an appointment directly themselves on GOV.UK. This applies to those who live in the same household as essential workers too. For those who can’t get online, appointments can be made directly through your employer.
We are also introducing home test kits, and mobile testing facilities (thanks to the help of the military).
Further information about testing can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested?fbclid=IwAR18FuCxtbhaoUN0nYY2mvUdiBEyMs-CI1mlFTJsn3JuJhfVoclBVuXqAYM
This week we have begun one of the biggest virus, infection and antibody projects with the Office of National Statistics and the University of Oxford. In total, 25,000 people will take part in the first phase and this will be expanded over the next 12 months. These tests will not only help our ability to find a cure, they will also help us strengthen our scientific understanding.
As we ramp up the ability to test, we must make sure we also have the ability to trace contacts. This is critical to keep the virus under control. We are putting the infrastructure in place now, so that we can roll it out on a large scale when necessary. Additionally, we are trialling the NHS contact tracing app. This means, if you become unwell with COVID symptoms, you can notify the NHS and they will contact those who you have been in regular and consistent contact with, in recent days.
The Government are also preparing for contact tracing by hiring an initial 18,000 people and training them over the coming weeks to roll out the service.
Finally, the Government have begun sending out letters to those who can help their research. If you receive one of these letters, please take part in this vital research for your country. There is already huge enthusiasm from those who have received a letter, so if you receive a letter, please respond as soon as you can.
These past few weeks have been hard on us all, but the evidence shows that the steps and sacrifices we are making are working. My thoughts are with those who have lost family and loved ones to this virus and anyone who is currently flighting in hospital. My thanks go out to every single keyworker, working around the clock to administer life-saving care or keep the country fed and moving.
Stay safe, Dehenna.