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Millions more people eligible for Covid-19 testing – Hancock

The Government is aiming to hit its 100,000-tests-a-day target, which is set for Thursday.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Millions more people, including all over-65s and those living with them, are now eligible for coronavirus testing under plans announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

In a massive expansion of testing as the Government tries to hit its 100,000-tests-a day target, set for Thursday, Mr Hancock said care home residents and staff together with NHS patients and staff can now get a test, whether they have symptoms or not.

Older people over the age of 65 plus anyone in their households are also eligible, but only if they have symptoms.

In addition, anyone who needs to go out to work can get a test alongside the people they live with, as long as they have symptoms.

It comes as Downing Street was forced to deny it had watered down requirements for allowing the lockdown to be lifted.

Mr Hancock said: “From construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.”

Some 41 drive-through centres are currently in place, Mr Hancock said, with a further 48 going live this week.

The availability of home tests – which can be booked via the gov.uk website – is also expanding from 5,000 kits per day to 25,000 a day by the end of the week, Mr Hancock said.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

The Army is currently running 17 mobile testing centres which are travelling around the country, but the plan is to increase this to 70 by the end of the week, he added.

He insisted the Government was on track to meet the goal of 100,000 tests a day, saying there was now capacity for 73,400 tests per day.

Some 43,453 tests were carried out across the UK on Monday.

Downing Street came in for questioning following the press conference after it was noted that its “five tests” for easing the lockdown featured altered wording, sparking speculation ministers are preparing to lift some restrictions next week.

Rather than stating in test five that ministers had to be confident any lockdown adjustment would not “risk a second peak of infections”, the wording was changed to say no weakening of restrictions would be made that would risk a second peak that “overwhelms the NHS”.

Speaking during the briefing, Mr Hancock said that in an effort to “bring as much transparency as possible” to the death figures, “from tomorrow we will be publishing not just the number of deaths in hospital each day, but the number of deaths in care homes and the community too”.

Such a move would “add to our understanding of how this virus is spreading day by day, and it will help inform the judgments that we make as we work to keep people safe”, he added.

It comes as 21,678 patients have now died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Monday, up 586 on the day before.

Analysis by the PA news agency shows some 24,243 deaths involving coronavirus have now been formally registered across the UK, though the true toll is thought to be far higher.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures released on Tuesday show around three in 10 of all Covid-19 deaths are now occurring in care homes.

Elsewhere:

– First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is advising people in Scotland to use face coverings made of cloth, including scarves, in places where social distancing is difficult, “such as public transport or shops”. Mr Hancock said the position in England has not changed and there is “weak science” on their use.

– John Lewis is deciding which of its stores will remain permanently closed, as British Airways announced it was making up to 12,000 workers redundant.

– Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, said he believes more coronavirus deaths are now occurring in care homes and at home than in hospitals.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

– Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the health service’s digital innovation arm, told MPs a contact tracing app could be ready for deployment in the next three weeks.

– Securing more personal protective equipment  (PPE) was top of the agenda for the Prime Minister as he returned to work, his spokesman said.

– More than 100 NHS and social care workers are now known to have died in the UK, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

– There will be an official RAF flypast to mark NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday on Thursday.

At 11am on Tuesday, the loved ones of key workers who have died in the coronavirus outbreak were among those who joined a nationwide minute’s silence to remember frontline workers.

Samina Haider observed the silence with her mother and brother in Romford, east London, and described it as a “humbling tribute”.

Her father, GP Syed Zishan Haider, 79, died in hospital on April 6 after testing positive for coronavirus.

Across the UK, people paused for a minute in tribute to the sacrifice made by those in roles ranging from doctors and nurses to carers, cleaners, porters and bus drivers.

Boris Johnson joined the countrywide commemoration, as did Mr Hancock.

Earlier, the Health Secretary was confronted on LBC radio by the son of a medic who died two weeks after warning the Government about a lack of PPE.

Intisar Chowdhury, 18, the son of Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton hospital in east London, asked Mr Hancock whether he regretted not taking his father’s concerns seriously and asked him to “openly acknowledge” there had been mistakes in handling the virus.

Answering the question, the Health Secretary said: “Intisar, I’m really sorry about your dad’s death and I have seen the comments you’ve made and what you’ve said in public and I think it’s very brave of you.

“We took very, very seriously what your father said and we’ve been working around the clock to ensure that there’s enough protective equipment.”

In the LBC interview, Mr Hancock also said he does not think there is “lockdown fatigue” or an appetite for an exit route among the public, despite the Government coming under pressure on the issue.

“If you look at surveys of the public, if you talk to members of the public, if you look at how much the public are following the measures, the public are following the lockdown brilliantly,” he said.

PA