Watch again: UK vows to ramp up coronavirus testing after criticism

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By Pascale Davies
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock to speak on latest coronavirus measures (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)
Britain's Health Secretary Matt Hancock to speak on latest coronavirus measures (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)   -   Copyright  TOLGA AKMEN/AFP or licensors

The UK has announced further coronavirus measures, including plans to ramp up testing, as the British government faces criticism for being slower than its European neighbours in rolling out mass checks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has been in isolation after testing positive for the virus, said on Thursday he had "returned from illness more determined than ever to fight this disease".

He announced 100,000 people per day would be tested for the virus by the end of April.

Watch his speech in the video player above.

On Wednesday, the government said just 2,000 of half a million frontline National Health Service (NHS) staff had been tested for the virus. 

Michael Gove, de-facto deputy prime minister, said a shortage of chemicals needed for the tests meant not all health service workers could be screened.

Under mounting pressure, Hancock unveiled a so-called 'five pillar testing strategy' to increase testing, which includes:

  1. Swab testing in Britain's NHS labs to see if people have the virus. Britain’s current testing capacity is about 10,000 per day. It plans to ramp up testing tenfold by 100,000 per day by the end of April across all five 'pillars'.

  2. Brand new swab testing provided by commercial companies such as Amazon and Boots to build new testing facilities, to be used by just NHS staff and their families. 5,000 NHS workers have been tested on these new sites.

  3. Blood tests that could potentially be done at home. The UK government said it is working with nine companies to build these facilities to establish how many people have had the virus.

We probably have one of the strongest understandings of the supply chain of anywhere in the world because of the preparations we did for a no-deal Brexit, and we keep them constantly under review.
Matt Hancock
UK health minister
  1. Surveillance, to find out what proportion of UK has the virus. 3,500 tests a week for population sampling. To understand the rate of infection and how it is spreading.

  2. Pharma giants are now working to build a British diagnostic industry, which will give tests to everyone who needs them.

Hancock also said:

  • 163,194 people in the UK have now been tested.

  • 33,718 people have tested positive for coronavirus and the rate of infection has been doubling every three to four days.

  • 12,949 people have been admitted to hospital with symptoms.

  • 2,921 people have died from contracting COVID-19.

  • Hancock said the government is “currently confident” that the UK has the supply of medicines needed.

  • £300 million (342 million euros) of funding to be provided for community pharmacies.

£13.4 billion National Health Service debt to be wiped off, which Hancock said would put the NHS in a "stronger position".

Hancock underlined "the most important thing is for people to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives".