In Brief

Just 2,000 NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus

Revelation adds to anger over government’s track record on Covid-19 testing

Officials have admitted that just 2,000 NHS England staff have been tested for the coronavirus, out of a workforce of about 1.2 million.

The revelation that a tiny proportion of healthcare workers being exposed to the virus have been tested so far has added to a “huge political backlash” against the government, says The Guardian.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has demanded to know why the UK’s Covid-19 testing is lagging behind other countries. He said: “NHS staff are rightly asking if we’ve left it too late to buy the kits and chemicals we need, or whether our lab capacity is too overstretched after years of tight budgets.”

Sky News added: “NHS staff have expressed frustration that they are being forced to self-isolate just as they are most needed, because tests are not available to show whether they are clear of the disease.”

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In response to the growing clamour for wider testing, the government has blamed a global lack of chemical reagents needed to carry out tests. However, the British chemical industry says are no shortages.

Yvonne Doyle, chief medical officer of Public Health England, said at yesterday's government briefing that testing for frontline staff should increase from “thousands to hundreds of thousands within the coming weeks”.

She added that there was currently capacity for about 3,000 tests a day for doctors and nurses.

But The Times says plans for testing are “in chaos”. It adds that hospitals have revealed how they had to “beg” for testing supplies from vets and brew their own chemicals to check staff because of shortages.

In a video message, Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted that the UK needs to “massively ramp up” testing for coronavirus.

He said it was “crucial” that people with the disease have access to tests.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had spoken to industry bodies about using private labs to expand testing. He said: “I want industry and government to come together to build a UK diagnostic capability that hasn’t previously been seen. I am entirely open-minded about how we do this, but I am determined that it should happen.”

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