NHS staff should be tested WEEKLY for coronavirus – even if they don’t have symptoms, top experts say – The Sun

NHS staff should be tested weekly for coronavirus even if they don't have symptoms, top experts say. 

Currently, the Government’s testing strategy involves testing NHS workers only if they have developed signs of the deadly virus, including a fever and a new, continuous cough.

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However, a new Imperial College London study has recommended testing all healthcare employees regularly, particularly those most exposed to the virus, to prevent transmission of the bug.

And the researchers, who used a mathematical model, revealed that this could slash transmission between NHS staff by as much as a third.

The latest report was headed-up by Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose modelling has helped inform the Government’s coronavirus strategy.

His study recommends that as the UK’s testing capacity increases towards the Government’s target of 100,000 per day by the end of April, NHS staff continue to be prioritised above “community testing”, which targets members of the public.

The report’s authors said community testing was “unlikely to help reduce transmission since individuals with suspected Covid-19 are already advised to self-isolate”.

Testing expanded

Matt Hancock yesterday announced that seven million of England's key workers and their families can now get coronavirus tests.

The Health Secretary expanded testing for Covid-19 to make sure millions more people more can get them – under radical plans to get the country moving again.

The news means that anyone working in key industries – such as teachers, bankers or supermarket workers – can now get tested if they develop symptoms.

However, the home tests for key workers ran out this morning – as 5,000 kits were snapped up in two minutes before drive-through slots were also fully booked up.

The Imperial College London report suggests that it should be NHS staff alone, not all essential workers, who are tested often for the virus.

The report revealed that testing healthcare workers at the end of their shifts and processing the results overnight could reduce transmission between NHS staff by between 25 and 33 per cent.

The 35,000 intensive care staff in the UK could each be tested once a week and only use 5,000 tests per day – just five per cent of the Government’s daily capacity target.

Some UK hospitals are already trialling regular routine testing.

On Wednesday, just 23,560 tests were carried out, with eight days to go until the Government's deadline to reach 100,000.

'Not reliable'

The Government have been pinning their hopes on antibody testing – which would tell patients through a finger-prick blood test if they have already had the virus and recovered.

However, Mr Ferguson and his team said that it is has not been validated – meaning the testing is not reliable enough.

And the researchers also said immunity Passports, which would prove the holder has had coronavirus and no longer does, were not likely to be effective.

They raised concerns that “the economic and personal benefits of an immunity passport to the general population would lead to fraud, and implementation of such a scheme is likely to face serious legal and ethical challenges related to discrimination based on immune status”.

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The report concludes that while testing “will play a critical role in informing the risk of lifting various components of social distancing interventions”, it should be limited to people who are at high risk of infection.

Reacting to the research, Dr Rupert Beale at the Francis Crick Institute’s Cell Biology of Infection Laboratory told The Telegraph: “The Imperial team have made a valuable contribution to the case for rigorous healthcare worker screening.

“We should have imposed robust mechanisms for this already. The case for preventing transmission within hospitals and care homes is overwhelmingly strong.”

The case for preventing transmission within hospitals and care homes is overwhelmingly strong

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for increased testing in countries with major Covid-19 outbreaks.

Currently, the UK lags behind France, Germany, Spain and Italy in the number of tests it carries out weekly, but all countries face global shortages of testing kits and the cotton swabs.

It was revealed yesterday that up to 300,000 Brits will be offered coronavirus home-testing to help track the spread of the outbreak.

Officials will contact 20,000 households in England to take part in a pioneering year-long study.

Participants will be tested for the killer bug every week for a month by a trained nurse.

They will then provide a monthly swab for the rest of the trial.


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As well as checking Brits for current infection, around 2,000 adults will also provide a blood sample to screen for antibodies against the disease.

The tests will help reveal the true scale and spread of the outbreak – with the first results expected in early May.

Scientists said the trial will help “transform our understanding” of the infection.

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