Peston highlights plan for monthly testing of entire UK population – potential to test 65m

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But efforts are being hampered by the Government’s refusal to engage, geneticist Phil Robinson, one of the founders of PopMaxCovid, has said. The difficulties in testing for coronavirus have been hampering efforts to battle the disease ever since it hit Europe in January. The UK struggled to meet its 100,000-a-day target set by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – reaching it on the day of its deadline.

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Currently, testing is undertaken via three laboratories known as Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes, Alderley Park in Cheshire, and Glasgow.

The mega-labs are aimed at rapidly increasing the number of coronavirus tests available for NHS, social care and other frontline workers, allowing those testing negative to safely and quickly return to work.

However, factoring in the time to process all the samples, it would take 650 days – close to two years – to test everyone, Mr Robinson said.

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Matt Hancock is aiming to maintain 100,000 tests a day – but Mr Robinson says his approach is faster (Image: GETTY)

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Testing is crucial to combat the spread of coronavirus (Image: GETTY)

He told Express.co.uk: “It’s the same test that the Government is using – just an awful lot quicker.

“The Government is using equipment which is 25 years old, and taking into account the time it would take to process the tests it would take years to test everybody in the UK.”

To achieve 65 million samples processed per month would require three PopMax systems installed across the UK at the same sites as the existing Government Labs, he claimed.

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A health worker test with a test sample (Image: United Kingdom)

The sampling of the population would be carried out per household using a pooling strategy.

Therefore, if four people live in a house then four swabs would be taken into a single sampling tube.

Such an approach would reduce the number of samples to be processed to roughly 16 million per month.

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The lockdown has seen large areas of London deserted (Image: GETTY)

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Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Image: GETTY)

Mr Robinson, the co-founder of KBiosciences, which he sold eight years ago, who has also worked for GSK, said his approach would dramatically increase the number of tests which could be performed a day, with each of three Government lab capable of performing 800,000 a day – meaning the whole UK population could be tested in a month.

He added: “I am very confident we can do this. The country needs to go back to work.

“This will offer us a way out of lockdown if it is implemented.

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Robert Peston’s tweet (Image: Twitter)

“We’re sitting here like chumps at the moment and we need to find a way out of this.

“It is a complementary approach to the Government because I want to work with them, not against them.

“But not one Government minister is talking to me about it, which is very frustrating I have to say.

“If they told me I was wrong, that would at least be something – but they haven’t told me anything.”

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Coronaviruses are so-called because of their crown-like appearances (Image: GETTY)

The costs involved would be £4.5million for additional equipment, with the cost of the tests coming in at roughly £1 a head – which, considering current estimates suggest the lockdown is costing the UK £2.4billion a day, was “chickenfeed”, Mr Robinson said.

Mr Peston tweeted a link the PopMaxCovid’s report, commenting: “This is a very interesting proposal for monthly testing of the entire population.”

He cited Professor Karol Sikora, Medical Director of Rutherford Health plc, who he said was among those backing the project.

Express.co.uk has approached the Department of Health and Social Care to ask them to respond to Mr Robinson’s comments.


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