The UK is developing the ability to manufacture millions of fast turnaround tests for coronavirus that can provide results in just 15 minutes, Boris Johnson said.
Downing Street also announced that additional pilots of the new test technology will begin next week in some of the UK’s worst-affected regions.
Johnson told Friday’s No 10 press conference that the new test was “faster, simpler and cheaper,” and that work is in progress to make it available for manufacturing and distribution in the UK.
“We are currently testing more people than any other country in Europe, but we always want to go further,” he said.
“Scientists and businesses in the UK and around the world are developing new tests that are faster, simpler and cheaper.
“We’ve already bought millions of tests, some of which are pretty simple, meaning you can get results in less than 15 minutes just by wiping the swab in your mouth.
“We started building the infrastructure for the domestic manufacturing of these tests so that the UK could produce millions of quick tests here.
“Over the next few weeks, we will distribute and test these tests nationwide.”
The government said hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Basingstoke and Southampton will test asymptomatic NHS staff and use the data to support Track and Trace.
This pilot will see individuals taking tests at least weekly.
Additionally, the tests of the new “side flow test” (a swab test that does not require laboratory treatment and can be returned within an hour) will be sent to adult social services facilities, schools and universities in the most severely affected areas.
Johnson said Liverpool, Lancashire, and other regions entering “very high” alert levels will be “prioritized immediately” for quick turnaround testing.
The government will also provide tests to local public health officers to control localized outbreaks.
However, Mr. Johnson warns that the new technology should be taken a “careful” approach.
“No country in the world regularly tests millions of people, so we have to take our time to establish how to do this effectively and safely, and to build logistics and distribution operations.
“We can’t get tested to get our business back on track quickly.
“Over time, we sadly want to use tests to open up more of a closed economy, but it’s important to make sure those systems are working safely.
“Before many organizations can purchase and run these tests themselves, we need to evaluate with you that it will take some time to correct this problem.”
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