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Testing for coronavirus: what is being done in the UK?

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Who is being tested for coronavirus in the UK? 

As of last week, when the Prime Minister announced Britain was no longer in the “contain” phase of the pandemic, most testing outside of hospitals stopped. People with symptoms are expected to self-isolate but will not know whether they have COVID-19. That means they will not know if they are immune or still at risk – and a risk to other people.

Testing now mostly takes place in hospital. People in intensive care units and those with respiratory illness, especially if it is pneumonia, will get tested for COVID-19. When there is a cluster of infections, such as an outbreak in a care home, those people will also be tested.

But the World Health Organization has criticised the approach of countries that are not prioritising testing, with its director general saying “you cannot fight a fire blindfolded … test, test, test”.

So why are people with symptoms not being tested?

It appears to be a capacity issue, although the Department of Health and Social Care failed to respond to repeated requests for explanation. So far there have been about 44,000 tests in England, which the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told the health select committee put it in “the top three or four countries in terms of testing”.

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Source: BBC News, 17 March 2020

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