The country is still struggling to test 10,000 people a day for Covid-19 across the country, weeks after the pandemic reached the British coast.
Meanwhile, Germany performs 50,000 tests a day and the country has a much lower mortality rate than that of the United Kingdom.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to “test, test, test” to try to control the epidemic.
On Wednesday, 10,657 tests were carried out in the UK with a capacity of 12,799.
But the numbers remain low overall, and No10 said yesterday that only 2,000 of the 500,000 front-line NHS workers in England have been tested since the start of the epidemic.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday the total number of deaths from the virus in the UK was 2,921.
The reason that this number is currently low and is expected to remain so for the foreseeable future can be explained by the following reasons.
Communication failure “reduces testing capacity by tens of thousands”
An interruption in communications between Public Health England (PHE) and the government’s animal health agency may have reduced UK testing capacity by tens of thousands per week, it has been claimed.
Employees of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have been chatting with PHE for more than two months to support testing efforts, reports BuzzFeed News.
The news site reports that they have seen evidence of APS being sent by the APS, which tests diseases in animals, conflicting information about the recruitment and training of scientists.
An APHA scientist told BuzzFeed News: “We don’t even get a consistent message about what they want us to do,” adding that the poor communication with PHE was “appalling.”
The government’s proposed collective immunity strategy
As the coronavirus epidemic began to worsen in early March, members of the government’s “nudge unit” appeared to favor a strategy of collective immunity.
Dr. David Halpern, a psychologist who heads the Behavioral Insights team, said on BBC News: “There is going to be a point, assuming the epidemic is flowing and growing, as we think it probably will, where you want to cocoon, you “I want to protect these groups at risk so that they do not basically catch the disease and by the time they come out of their cocooning, collective immunity is reached in the rest of the population.”
According to Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, to achieve collective immunity, about 60% of the population should fall ill and become immune.
Martin Hibberd, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said, “I fear that making plans that assume that such a large proportion of the population will be infected (and hopefully recovered and immune) is not all we can do. ”
Within a week, the strategy of “collective immunity” was abandoned and replaced by “suppression” with measures of social distancing quickly accelerated.
Speaking to former BBC Newsnight health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who had previously criticized the “collective immunity” strategy, said: “We changed our strategy a few weeks ago from the strategy of collective immunity to the suppression strategy. “
Government agrees to perform 10,000 tests per day
On March 18 – about six weeks after the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the UK – the government promised that 10,000 tests a day would be done the following week.
This objective was finally reached on April 1 with 10,657 tests carried out.
Also on March 18, the government announced that 25,000 tests per day would be carried out “within four weeks”.
There is no indication that they will be able to reach this goal, but today Professor Paul Cosford of Public Health England (PHE) said the tests would reach 15,000 per day “imminently”.
Government Reverses Importance Of Testing
Last week, Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health for England, said, “There is a point in a pandemic where (testing each case) is not an appropriate response and this is where we moved.
“Although we are still doing research and contact testing, for example in high-risk areas like prisons and nursing homes, it is not a suitable mechanism for the future.”
However, in a video message on Twitter on Wednesday evening, Johnson said the increased screening would be the way the UK defeats the coronavirus.
“I want to say a special word about testing because it is very important, and as I have said for weeks and weeks, this is the way to go,” he said.
“This is how we are going to unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat him in the end. “
Around the same time as the Prime Minister’s video was posted to Twitter on Wednesday evening, Jonathan Van Tam, also deputy medical director, told Robert Peston of ITV that testing was a “secondary problem” in reducing deaths.
Confused facts about NHS front-line staff testing
The government said on Wednesday that 2,000 NHS staff had been tested – although more than 100,000 people are sick or self-isolated.
Downing Street said on Thursday that the number of tests was actually higher than previously.
No10 said there were in fact two test streams for NHS staff – driving tests, which have now tested 2,800 employees, as well as tests in NHS laboratories for front-line staff.
The government said the second section had tested “large numbers” of NHS staff, but said the figures won’t be released in full until later Thursday.
Meanwhile, a new laboratory in Milton Keynes has started taking samples from NHS staff, said No10.
Downing Street said that nearly 100 universities, businesses and research institutes have agreed to lend their machines for the Milton Keynes effort and “not a single institution has been asked to refuse.”
Reserve capacity to be used for NHS staff
The ministers said Tuesday evening that they would finally start using unused capacity to test NHS personnel, after even the limited UK testing capacity remained unused despite huge demand.
It is understood that the difference between the testing capacity of coronaviruses and the actual tests is due to a ceiling of 15% on staff tests, 85% being reserved for patients.
When doctors were unable to fill the 85% patient quota, testing capacity was not used.
With the increase in testing capacity, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the NHS to remove the cap, so that all of the spare capacity can be used for staff and families starting Wednesday.
“Dunkirk-like effort” is needed to significantly increase the number of tests
Sir Paul Nurse, director general of the Francis Crick research institute – which will soon be able to perform 500 Covid-19 tests per day – said that a Dunkirk-type effort was needed to coordinate small laboratories and increase the number of tests.
“We are a lot of small boats and small boats can be effective,” he said, referring to the evacuation of Allied troops from the beaches of the French city during the Second World War.
He added: “The government has set up big boats, destroyers. It’s a bit more cumbersome to get to work and we wish them luck in doing so, but we, small boats, can help too. “
Lack of materials and laboratory space
A global shortage of key chemicals called reagents is hampering test production, No10 said this week.
According to the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association, companies are struggling to keep up with demand, but the chemicals needed for different test machines are different and the production complex.
While problems with the supply of reagents were seen by the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, as a reason for the slowness of test production, the claim was questioned on Tuesday.
The Chemical Industries Association, which represents the major British chemical industry, told ITV that there was no shortage.
What is certain, however, is the fact that too little laboratory space has been designated to allow scientists to examine the tests.
At first, Public Health England used only its eight laboratories.
This has been extended to 40 NHS laboratories, which means that a total of 48 laboratories are now operational.
No test is better than a bad test
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer of health, has issued a warning about rushing tests that are not ready.
“A worse thing than no test is a bad test,” arguing that an infected doctor or nurse, falsely given the green light, could spread the virus in much of a hospital.
Some scientists have argued that strict government guidelines for testing standards, as well as the types of reagents and chemicals, should be relaxed.
“It delays things,” Professor Nicola Stonehouse, a molecular virologist at the University of Leeds, told The Guardian.
“If we could overcome this, we could run the test centers much faster, and that must be a good thing. “
How does the government plan to fix it?
Today, Matt Hancock has said he will “press the accelerator” on coronavirus testing before unveiling a five-point plan that he says would allow the UK to hit 100,000 tests a day.
Part of the plan is to leverage the capacity of the British private sector.
Last night, during a conference call with manufacturers, inventors and commercial developers, the Secretary of Health asked them to urgently create a large diagnostic capacity in the United Kingdom, in line with that in Germany.
When asked about the details of the plan, Prime Minister spokesman Boris Johnson said that following shortage complaints, the NHS had developed a new specification for the swabs used to perform the tests that had been validated and shared with potential manufacturers.
“We think this provides us with a path forward for hundreds of thousands of tests,” he said.
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After opening a large-scale testing laboratory at Milton Keynes in just one week, the spokesman said two more will open next week in Cheshire and Glasgow to cover the north of England and l ‘Scotland.
At the same time, the spokesperson said the government was working with nine potential suppliers on the development of an antibody test that would show if people had got the virus.