Jeremy Hunt leads calls for more tests for NHS workers – as rules forcing staff to isolate when they may not have coronavirus are blasted as ‘ridiculous’
- Jeremy Hunt said more tests and tracing may be more important than social distancing
- Mr Hunt also warned that it ‘may be too late’ to avoid Britain becoming like Italy
- 5,500 people were tested on Saturday, no significant increase on a week ago
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for more testing and tracing to ‘break the chain’ of transmission
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for more testing and tracing to ‘break the chain’ of transmission.
He told MPs that this could be more important than social distancing and called for scientists and civil servants to be mobilised.
Mr Hunt also warned that it ‘may be too late’ to avoid Britain becoming like Italy, which has suffered one of the worst outbreaks.
He told Parliament: ‘Now is the time for a massive national mobilisation behind testing and contact tracing.’
Whilst welcoming Boris Johnson’s ‘ambition’ of 250,000 tests a day, he said that just 5,500 people had been tested on Saturday – no significant increase on a week ago.
‘Ambition is not the same as a national plan and we have not seen a national plan on testing,’ he said.
‘How can we possibly suppress the virus if we don’t know where it is?’
He said that based on a recent death rate, nearly 300,000 Britons had the virus – and if it is doubling every five days, we will have more than one million cases by the end of next week.
‘Unless we radically change direction, we won’t know where they are,’ he added.
Former NHS chief executive Lord Crisp said the lack of testing for health workers was an ‘obvious bottleneck’ the Government needed to clear.
‘We are seeing these situations where you have three junior doctors living as flatmates – one has a cough and three of them are off work for two weeks. That is ridiculous,’ he told the Telegraph.
Scientists, local authorities and civil servants should help trace those who have been in touch with sufferers – along with weekly tests for NHS and social care staff ‘to reduce risk of passing it on to their patients’.
Mr Hunt welcomed Boris Johnson’s ‘ambition’ of 250,000 tests a day. Pictured: Mr Johnson today
Mr Hunt also wants mobile phone data to be used to track those who had been infected and get in touch with those who had been in contact with them. ‘That has civil liberty implications – but in this national emergency, being able to do that would save lives,’ he said.
He told Parliament yesterday: ‘A week ago the Government said we were four weeks behind Italy.
‘That then changed to three weeks behind Italy and today our mortality rates are two weeks behind Italy. Our hospitals, especially in London, are filling up. We’ve had a critical incident at one, others say they’re running out of ICU [Intensive Care Unit] beds.
‘According to the papers we have one nurse fighting for her life in an ICU unit, one London hospital has seven doctors in just that one hospital with the virus.
‘And yet still, people are going to shops, parks, beaches, holiday homes as if nothing has changed.
‘It may be too late to avoid Italy, but to have any chance at all of doing so we must move to lockdown rules now that ban non-essential travel.’
He added: ‘It is time not just to ask people to do social distancing but to enforce these social distancing rules. Not next week, not this week, but right away. It’s very important we do this as soon as we can.’
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