England relies on nationwide rapid testing

In England, people without symptoms will soon be tested for the coronavirus in a rapid procedure. Two million antigen tests have been ordered from a British manufacturer, Health Minister Matt Hancock announced today. Millions more tests could be added in the coming months.

The tests will be available starting next Friday, according to a statement from the Department of Health. Within 30 minutes, they will show a result. The government wants to use them to detect asymptomatic cases and thus break transmission chains. Initially, the tests will primarily target people who are unable to work from home.

Critics not convinced
However, critics are not convinced that the measure will really help. In the “lateral flow tests,” up to 60 percent of positive cases would not be detected, an expert from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine told the Financial Times. That’s what a preliminary evaluation of a pilot trial in Liverpool showed, he said.

Hancock disagreed with that assessment. “With this mass asymptomatic testing, the rate of cases in Liverpool has fallen more than in other similar areas where only the contact restrictions have been introduced,” Hancock said on BBC television.

Warning of health system collapse
Experts, meanwhile, expect the situation to worsen. The government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, warned of a collapse of the health care system in a guest editorial for the Times on Sunday. “If the virus continues like this, hospitals will be in real trouble, and soon,” the professor of medicine wrote. That could be the case in as little as a few weeks, he said.

Waiting times for patient treatment will increase to potentially dangerous levels, Whitty added. Hospital staff-to-patient ratios will become unacceptable, he added. The health service is currently facing the most dangerous situation in living memory in some parts of the country, he said. “There will be deaths that could have been avoided.”

-Source: orf.at/picture: pixabay.com

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