Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces major expansion in coronavirus testing

28 April 2020, 17:24

Matt Hancock was leading the government's daily press briefing
Matt Hancock was leading the government's daily press briefing. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Coronavirus testing will be ramped up to include anyone who works or lives in care homes, people aged over 65 with symptoms, or anyone who needs to leave home for work, Matt Hancock has announced.

The Health Secretary was speaking at the government's daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Tuesday evening.

With the UK's testing capacity now standing at 73,400 per day, Mr Hancock said the government would now be able to ramp up testing for Covid-19.

"Anyone working or living in care homes will be able to get access to a test whether they have symptoms or not," the health secretary announced.

In addition, testing would be made available to all people aged over 65 with symptoms along with anyone in their households.

All people who need to leave home to go to work, such as construction workers, manufacturers and research scientists, will also now have access to testing from Wednesday, as well as members of their households with symptoms.

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He said: "From construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.

"It's possible because we've expanded capacity for testing thus far."

Mr Hancock added that to make the death figures as "transparent as possible," the government from tomorrow "will be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospital each day, but the number of deaths in care homes and the community too."

"This will supplement the ONS and CQC weekly publication and all add to our understanding of how this virus is spreading day by day, and it will help inform the judgments that we make as we work to keep people safe," he said.

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There will also be an expansion in the number of home testing kits being dispatched, with the government hoping to reach a capacity of 25,000 by the end of the week.

The health secretary said his target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month was in reach, with more than 70 mobile units staffed by the armed forces also being set up by the end of this week.

When asked whether care homes were now the government's priority in dealing with coronavirus, Mr Hancock said: "Of course care homes have been a top priority right from the start.

"We've strengthened the rules around what happens in care homes and tightened infection control, also making testing available throughout the care centre I think is incredibly important as we've ramped up the availability of testing.

"We keep a close eye on it and I'm very glad we are now able to publish this daily data that will keep the focus on what is happening in care homes."