Thursday, 1 Oct 2020

Coronavirus breakthrough: Matt Hancock announces £500m funding package for testing

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Matt Hancock announced that part of the £500m funding package will go towards assessing the effects of testing people repeatedly. The announcement comes as a new community-wide repeat population testing experiment is set to begin in Salford, Greater Manchester.

The new funding will also support the expansion of trials that are already in place in Southampton and Hampshire.

These trials use a no-swab saliva test and a rapid 20-minute test.

Mr Hancock said: “Testing is a vital line of defence in combating this pandemic.

“Over the past six months we have built almost from scratch one of the biggest testing systems in the world.

“We need to use every new innovation at our disposal to expand the use of testing, and build the mass testing capability that can help suppress the virus and enable more of the things that make life worth living.

“We are backing innovative new tests that are fast, accurate and easier to use that will maximise the impact and scale of testing, helping us to get back to a more normal way of life.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said saliva-based tests will be used for the Salford trial.

The Salford pilot will include the city council and other local partners.

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A specific number of local people will be urged to take a weekly test, with the trial carrying out up to 250 tests a day.

Initially, the trial will target areas such as retail facilities, public and transport services and faith amenities.

The idea is to find coronavirus infections early, including patients with mild symptoms or asymptomatic sufferers.

The pilot aims to get those who are positive to self-isolate as promptly as possible.

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The outcome will define how regular repeat community testing could be set up countrywide.

The second phase of a no-swab saliva test trial is set to start in Southampton this week.

The University of Southampton jointly with Southampton City Council and the NHS will be carrying out the trial.

The DHSC said that a pilot of a rapid 20-minute coronavirus test will be expanded “to further explore the applications of mobile testing in different settings.”

Also included in the funding will be a project to boost capacity for existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

Baroness Dido Harding, interim executive chairwoman of the National Institute for Health Protection, the body replacing Public Health England, said: “New testing technologies and methods are vital to keep the system evolving and improving, especially as we assess how routine testing could help pick up cases of the virus earlier.

“We will continue to scale up our testing capacity by expanding our network of testing sites and investing in new technologies to reach even more people through NHS Test and Trace.”

A report published in the online journal BMJ Open indicated that people who have coronavirus should be swab-tested again four or more weeks after symptoms first appear to reduce the risk of onward infection.

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