Coronavirus: Government will prioritize NHS and nursing homes for testing

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The government will release details of its plan to prioritize coronavirus testing in the coming days, after widespread problems with the system.

NHS staff and patients, as well as those in nursing homes, will top the list.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he “doesn’t shy away from decisions” about who to choose.

It comes as the mayor of Greater Manchester – home to England’s highest infection rate – said time was running out to fix the testing system.

“I think we have two or three weeks to sort out these issues,” Mayor Andy Burnham told the BBC’s Newsnight program. “If we don’t, the worry is that we’ll never take control as we head into fall and winter. ”

The Bolton NHS Trust in Greater Manchester said on Tuesday that a “large number of patients” had gathered in accidents and emergencies to request a test.

Mr Burnham called on the government to work with local authorities to determine where there are shortages and where capacity should be concentrated.

The government’s testing system – part of its test, track and trace operation that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to ‘beat the world’ – has come under criticism in recent weeks.

An increase in demand for coronavirus testing has resulted in local shortages, with many people reporting problems getting reservations online and being directed to testing sites hundreds of miles from their homes.


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Media legendThe BBC spoke to people trying to take tests at a center in Oldham

The ministers acknowledged that the system continues to pose problems.

The large government-run Lighthouse laboratories to analyze test swabs from all UK countries have been strained to process them all.

There appear to be enough testing sites, but there are bottlenecks in the labs for processing swabs and that is why testing locations are limited, said Hugh Pym, BBC editor-in-chief.

A new lab is expected to be up and running, but it could take a few weeks – and by then ministers say the current problems are likely to continue.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said: ‘Throughout this pandemic, we have prioritized testing based on need. During the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all testing requirements, whether priority or not.

“But as demand has increased, we have to prioritize again and I’m not shying away from prioritization decisions. They are not always comfortable, but they are important. “

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Media legendMatt Hancock: “We are working around the clock to make sure that anyone who needs a test can take a test”

Mr. Hancock added: “The top priority is and always has been acute clinical care. The next priority is social protection, where we are now sending over 100,000 tests a day, as we have all seen the risks this virus poses in nursing homes.

“We will be defining a priority update in its entirety and I am not excluding further steps to ensure that our tests are used in accordance with those priorities. ”

The Health Department said about a quarter of people requesting tests did not need to do so – and only those with relevant symptoms should book.

Mr Johnson is likely to face questions about the tests in Parliament on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s questions – although he is facing Labor Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, rather than self-defeating leader Sir Keir Starmer isolated.

Meanwhile, the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called on the government to “trust the local” and allow local public health teams to play a greater role in the fight against the pandemic.

In the Daily Telegraph, the Right Reverend Justin Welby said ministers should “only do centrally what needs to be done centrally”.

He said that “the new standard of living with Covid-19 will only be sustainable – if not bearable – if we challenge our reliance on centralization.”

It comes after the UK government introduced the new ‘rule of six’ which went into effect on Monday, banning gatherings of six or more people.

According to official government figures on Tuesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK increased by 3,105.

The number of patients in mechanical ventilation beds across the UK topped 100 for the first time in nearly two months. There were 106 ventilated patients in the UK on Monday – the first time the figure has risen above 100 since July 24.

About 220,000 tests are processed each day, according to government figures as of Monday.

The government said its testing capacity last week was over 370,000 – which includes swab testing and antibody testing. The goal is to increase this figure to 500,000 per day by the end of October.

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