Why is the UK lagging behind other countries on coronavirus testing?

1 April 2020, 10:13

The UK is testing substantially fewer people for coronavirus than countries like Italy, Germany and the USA. Nick Ferrari asked a senior doctor from the Global Health Programme why we’re lagging behind.

So far, the UK has tested 143,186 people for Covid-19, compared with over 1 million in the USA and half a million a week in Germany.

Dr Osman Dar, the Project Director at the Global Health Programme, Chatham House, told Nick Ferrari the UK is competing with the rest of the world for the equipment that we need.

He said: “One of the reasons why South Korea and China were able to ramp up their response so quickly is that they learnt from their experience with the SARS epidemic and had invested in those capacities to be able to scale up laboratory testing.

“In the UK, there has been underinvestment in both the NHS Trusts and the public health laboratory services. That’s why we had to move away from a containment strategy - we didn’t have enough field teams to go out and implement containment.”

The UK is lagging behind other countries in coronavirus testing
The UK is lagging behind other countries in coronavirus testing. Picture: PA

Michael Gove claimed the UK was having difficulty sourcing the reagents for the tests. Dr Dar responded: “The issue has become more acute because the pandemic is in every country.

“The United States has much higher purchasing power than anyone else, so they are buying up everything that’s on the international market. Similarly the Middle Eastern countries have bought items. This accounts for critical care equipment like ventilators as well.”

Watch his full interview at the top of the page.