UK urged to include private sector to ramp up coronavirus testing
The UK must utilise the country’s private laboratories if it is going to reach its coronavirus testing targets, according to a report from a leading London think tank.
The government is beginning to face scathing criticism as it fails to meet testing targets and as the UK falls further behind other OECD countries in testing rates.
A report out today from the free market Adam Smith Institute think tank argues that the decision to “centralise testing to a single Public Health England (PHE) laboratory” has hampered its efforts.
The institute said PHE should use the UK’s 120 private laboratories to conduct Covid-19 testing and should “expand usage of 474 NHS laboratories” and dozens of university laboratories.
The report added that the government should issue a call-to-arms of private companies to help manufacture large numbers of testing kits, similar to what has been done with ventilators.
The report’s author, and Adam Smith Institute head of research, Matthew Lesh said: “The UK’s COVID-19 testing has been dangerously slow, excessively bureaucratic and hostile to outsiders and innovation.”
The institute’s plan was backed by Health and Social Care Select Committee chair, and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
“A mass community testing plan is challenging, but not impossible if we mobilise in the way we have to produce ventilators,” he said.
“That means tapping into every laboratory, every pharmaceutical company and every university in the country without delay.”
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice to countries has been to “test, test, test” for Covid-19 in order to track the spread of the disease.
The UK has now administered 151, 979 tests, putting it in the bottom 25 per cent of OECD countries.
On a per capita basis, South Korea has tested four-times as many people as the UK, Germany almost three-times and the United States almost two-times.
The government is aiming to reach 25,000 tests a day in a little over two weeks, which would be more than a twofold increase on current levels.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said yesterday there was a global shortage of the chemicals needed to administer Covid-19 tests.
He said this was putting a “critical constraint” on the country’s ability to meet its targets.