As second wave unfolds, UK enters new coronavirus testing crisis

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Still, defying the warnings of a key government adviser, Mr Johnson last week set his new target for a high-speed diagnostic program that by early 2021 could test 10 million Britons a day, or every person in the country once a week. Documents obtained by the BMJ, a medical journal, cited a price tag of 100 billion pounds, or $ 129 billion, and acknowledged that the technology to process so many tests so quickly does not exist.

The government adviser who warned against the plan, Sir John Bell, a professor at the University of Oxford, said in a radio interview that the problems with the government’s existing testing program were the result of an underestimation of demand once students return to class this month.

“What was underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the strain on the system from the kids going back to school and the demands for testing associated with that, and the people more and more, ”he said. “So I think they’re definitely overdue in getting the tests needed for what we need today.”

Beyond the surge in demand, some officials have also suggested that shortages of personnel and of reagents, the chemical ingredients used in testing, could be contributing to the crisis.

The shortages have reverberated through schools, where students returned to class earlier this month, highlighting the dangers of returning children to classrooms without a strong testing program in place.

Teachers said the headaches and sniffles at the start of the term started to spread almost immediately, but there was little way to tell if they were a sign of something worse.

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