Boris Johnson is asking universities to send him 400 technicians, post-docs or PhD students to manage new mega-labs for coronavirus testing and keep the system from collapsing
- Boris Johnson wants university coffins to occupy his planned Covid testing labs
- The Prime Minister is seeking "urgent support" from 50 universities and medical schools
- Thousands of Britons have complained about the difficulty of getting Covid tests
- Some walk-through centers in Greater Manchester have queues of more than five hours
Boris Johnson pleads with university directors to send him hundreds of academics to help keep the UK's chaotic coronavirus testing system from collapsing.
Sunday's mail may show that the prime minister has written to the heads of more than 50 top universities and medical schools asking for their "urgent support" in filling the government's new megalabs, which are short of staff as demand increases .
His plea comes from the fact that thousands of people across the UK are still unable to get coronavirus tests. Some have been advised that they have to travel hundreds of miles to get a swab, and last week there were reports of five-hour queues at some walk-in centers in Greater Manchester.
Boris Johnson has asked universities and medical schools to send him experts so that he can man his planned massive Covid-19 testing centers, which are central to his plan to prevent a second surge
Scientists claim the problems stem from the government's network of privately owned lighthouse laboratories, which are now struggling to meet demand after numerous academics who helped them build it in March and April returned to their day jobs over the summer.
In his personally signed letter to university directors, Mr. Johnson requests that "experienced staff who have helped set up the Lighthouse labs return and expand these programs and train the next generation of staff."
He appealed to 400 "technicians, post-docs or PhD students with molecular biology experience" to fill the Lighthouse laboratories in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Manchester, Newport and Glasgow, and to "qualified technicians / post-docs with management experience" to take the test Trace Laboratory Team to manage all of our laboratory capacity. He also urged academics to enroll "as soon as possible" for six to twelve months and promised that the government would reimburse them at their current university rates.
Mr Johnson had vowed to create a world-leading £ 10 billion testing system that would perform 500,000 tests a day for the next month. However, currently the system only processes 200,000, of which more than 70,000 are carried out by NHS laboratories. Official figures show that the time it takes to process the test samples is also increasing, with nursing home residents waiting an average of 83 hours for their results – almost three times longer than in June.
Mr. Johnson would like 400 skilled technicians to staff his key laboratories across the country
Jon Ashworth, Labour's shadow health secretary, said last night: “This extraordinary begging letter from the Prime Minister is proof that testing is far from beating the world has become a fiasco on his watch. Ministers left it too late to plan this crucial moment. It was known that many of the Lighthouse Laboratory staff had to return to universities and research facilities, and it was known that with children going back to school and people returning to the office, we would need additional tests and the ability to test this to process. & # 39;
Allan Wilson, President of the Institute of Biomedical Science and testing expert, said: “This letter from the Prime Minister shows that the lighthouse laboratories are under staff shortages. They have lost a lot of staff and are now looking for universities to replace staff or encourage those who have left to return. "
Sarah-Jane Marsh, the testing director at NHS Test and Trace, admitted last week that people couldn't get coronavirus tests because laboratories had reached a "critical pinch point".
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on the Health Committee last week that there was "a problem with a few contracts" that would be "sorted out" in a few weeks. When asked about Mr Johnson's intervention, a health department spokesman said, “We recently announced new facilities and technology to further expand our testing capacity and process results more quickly. As this is being built up, more staff will be needed and new employees will be hired. "
Trials of a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University are set to resume after a hiatus due to a reported side effect in a volunteer. The New York Times reported that the volunteer was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed the restart, adding, "This hiatus shows that safety always comes first."
Covid-19 cases rise to 3,497 – the highest Saturday number since May
The UK recorded 3,497 new cases of coronavirus yesterday – the highest increase on Saturday since May.
Nine more deaths were recorded for a total of 41,623.
Government academic advisor Sir Mark Walport said the rising number of cases means the UK is "on the verge of losing control" as rules come into effect tomorrow restricting social contact to six people.
However, the overall prevalence of the virus is still much lower than it was in March when an estimated 100,000 people were infected daily.
Public Health England (PHE) officials said yesterday evening that Covid-19 cases have risen sharply among those over 50 and there are "worrying" signs of risk groups. Over the past week, infections rose 92 percent in people in their fifties, 72 percent in people in their sixties, and 44 percent in people in their eighties and above.
Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said, "While younger people continue to be the largest proportion of new cases, we are now seeing worrying signs of infection in older people who are far more at risk of becoming seriously ill."
Ministers continue to come under pressure to remove children from the new dictates of the "Rule of Six", but Cabinet Minister Michael Gove urged young people to act in accordance with the new rules, saying freedom should be exercised "responsibly".
Parents of larger families complained that it was unfair for people to go to pubs while they and their children were separated from friends and family.
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