The UK could go back to normal by Christmas if government-proven rapid coronavirus tests are successful, Matt Hancock said today.
The health minister, who has announced a £ 500 million investment in an on-site mass saliva testing regimen, said it was "the best attempt" to end social distancing.
Although treatments for the virus are improving, if a vaccine isn't found it still cannot be fully cured or prevented.
Only by keeping an eye on the bug and removing it from the communities can you prevent more people from ending up in the hospital and dying.
When asked about ending social distancing, Hancock said on BBC Radio 4 this morning, "I hope if this mass testing regime stops, if the new technologies we're working so hard on or we manage to get a vaccine in between." and to – which we cannot rule out – then I hope that we can have the joyous and loving Christmas that people long for. & # 39;
However, with the Health Secretary promising tests will get Britain out of its current situation, the official testing regime is rationing swabs and allowing some people to travel more than 100 miles to get them.
The tests – around 180,000 of which are performed daily – are used more frequently in areas where local lockdowns exist or the risk of additional restrictions.
As a result, people who are uncomfortable in less severely affected areas of the country have difficulty accessing the swabs, and some report driving for hours to centers in other cities, counties, or even countries.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today that the government is investing £ 500 million in rapid mass tests for the coronavirus
Tests have increased significantly from no more than 13,000 tests per day in early April to around 150,000 in July and 200,000 in August
Britons showing symptoms of Covid can apply for drive-through exams, but some have been found to be directed to centers more than 100 miles away (Image: A family member self-tests a child at a Leicester station).
The Minister of Health defended the current testing system and said, “At the moment the system is working well. Of course, there are operational challenges from time to time, but it works well.
“And we are finding more and more people in the country who suffer from coronavirus and are having them tested so that they can be looked after.
"But we really need to do more testing – we did that during this crisis and today we are another step towards solving some of these problems with existing technology."
This morning he said the rapid tests were the UK's best chance of getting back to normal.
The government has announced that it will pour £ 500 million into testing and manufacturing tests that can be done on site on people's saliva.
These can lead to a positive or negative result in as little as 20 minutes compared to current laboratory smears, which can take days to complete.
The main pilots of the portable laboratory tests in a van will take place in Salford, Southampton in Hampshire.
Mr Hancock declined to set a date when the tests would be more widely available to people across the UK but said it would be "in the weeks and months to come" and seemed to be planning for them up to be used for winter.
Experts say winter is likely to resurgence in cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by Covid-19, as viruses tend to spread more effectively in colder weather while the country also has to deal with the flu.
On Radio 4, the Minister of Health said this morning, "Without a vaccine, this is the best chance to reduce social distancing while controlling the virus, especially when winter comes with all the challenges that come with it."
He hoped the tests would enable people to have a "happy and loving Christmas" with their friends and family.
But warned: “We will of course do everything to ensure the safety of the people. We cannot say absolutely yet.
“But let's all try to band together, create the social distancing, and support all of these new innovative technologies that scientists are developing. And then maybe we can have the Christmas everyone wants to see. & # 39;
The £ 500 million funding package will support trials of a 20-minute Covid-19 test and efforts to study the benefits of repetitive testing of people for the virus.
The money will be used to start a new community-wide replication test in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Existing trials in Southampton and Hampshire using a swabless saliva test and a 20 minute rapid test will also be expanded with the new funding.
The Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC) said saliva-based testing will also be used in the Salford pilot, which will involve the city council and other local partners.
A selected number of residents are invited to a weekly test, with the pilot performing up to 250 tests per day.
The initial focus will be on high-traffic areas of Salford such as shopping malls, public transport and places of worship.
The aim of the project is to identify positive coronavirus cases at an early stage, even in patients with no or only minor symptoms, so that people can self-isolate.
"The second use of tests," Hancock added on Radio 4 this morning, "is to remove some of the limitations we currently have."
"If you test and test negative, you can catch the virus in a few days, but we know you're negative now. And when we get to the point where regular testing is possible, you're pretty sure you won't to have.
“At the same time, we're capturing these positive cases so that people have more freedom and confidence to undo some of the social distancing measures and allow people to get back to normal and get back to the things they love , confident they won't spread the virus. & # 39;
The UK's coronavirus test positivity rate has remained unchanged since June, showing that the proportion of people who test positive is not changing drastically – this suggests that the increasing number of cases is related to the increasing number of tests
The Twickenham testing center was empty, although callers were told that no tests were available
There were very few visitors to Greenwich all Tuesday
However, at the start of the government's trials that it hopes will be widely deployed, citizens are still trying to run the drive-through swab tests that have been going on for months.
This service doesn't seem to be working well either.
People report that they have been instructed to drive tens of kilometers, some of them more than 100 miles, or even from Suffolk to Scotland, for their next available test that same day.
A MailOnline investigation found that the test centers at Twickenham, Heathrow and Greenwich were practically empty, even though callers were told that no slots were available.
A number of people in the capital in need of swabs have now complained that they learned that no one could be taken away in the city.
One who returned to the UK on Saturday from a vacation abroad was said to have to call 119 to arrange a test after her friend tested positive.
She said: “I was told there are no tests in all of London and that I should call back at 8pm.
“The same thing happened when I called back at 8pm – they told me the next test I could get was 80 miles away, even though I lived in the capital.
“I've called four times trying to get an appointment and I've been told the same thing each time. Three times out of four I was told that they didn't even have home test kits to send me.
I ended up renting a car and just going to the Twickenham testing center to see if I could risk it.
"It was completely empty and although I was told four times that I couldn't get a test, I was tested immediately with no appointment or waiting."
JEREMY HUNT CALLS SCHOOLS FOR MASS TESTS
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for secondary school teachers to be regularly tested for Covid-19 to increase parents' confidence in virus-free classrooms.
The Chair of the Commons Health Committee endorsed a call from epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, whose early modeling of coronavirus mortality helped sway the government's decision to launch the lockdown in March to run "rapid tests" in schools.
His comments came as students returned to school at the start of the new school year. Some of them were in class for the first time since the ban was introduced six months ago.
The ex-cabinet minister told BBC Radio 4: “We know something we didn't know in January. That said, about 70 percent of people who transmit coronavirus have no symptoms at all, and it's much harder to get public approval for things like sending people back to school or going back to offices, etc., as it's sometimes a silent one Sender and sometimes even a silent killer.
“To get around this, you have to test very quickly, very effectively, and on a large scale.
“I think it's going in this direction out of fairness to the government, but we could be much more systematic if we really want to build trust.
For example, if we said that every secondary school teacher would be tested twice a week, it would really give people confidence that they would not send their children to a zone where they would send their children back to school pick up the virus. & # 39;
Defending the test system – the drive-through centers still make up the majority of the swabs taken – Mr Hancock said it was working "well" and urged people to keep using it.
He said over the BBC breakfast, “If you have symptoms, please come in and get tested. It's straightforward, it's easy, and the vast majority of people get one near their home. & # 39;
He said the problem with people making appointments close to home is part of why the government is investing in faster Covid-19 tests.
A professor said the change should have been made in the summer when the country was "relatively Covid-safe".
Professor Alan McNally of the University of Birmingham told the Today program, "I don't think the time is right. I think it was time to think about extending the testing to the wider community and about asymptomatic testing in the summer when we were relatively safe and knew that autumn and winter were coming.
"Ideally, we would be far more advanced in our ability to cope with what we are already beginning to see. This increases the requirements for Covid tests and respiratory infection tests."
The results of the rapid test trials will shed light on how regular community retesting can be expanded across the country.
The second phase of a swab-free saliva test pilot is slated to begin this week in Southampton.
A weekly test model is tested with more than 2,100 students and staff in four schools.
The work is led by a partnership between the University of Southampton, Southampton City Council and the NHS.
In Hampshire, the pilot of a 20-minute rapid coronavirus test is being expanded "to further examine the applications of mobile testing in different environments," the DHSC said.
The funds will also be used to expand capacity for existing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests currently being carried out in the UK.
Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, which is replacing public health in England, said: “New testing technologies and methodologies are vital to developing and improving the system, especially as we assess how routine testing is used in the Choosing can help cases of the virus sooner.
"We will continue to expand our testing capacity by expanding our network of test sites and investing in new technology to reach even more people through NHS Test and Trace."
The Department of Health and Welfare insisted its test and trace program was working, claiming it tests "hundreds of thousands of people" every day.
However, it would not say how many were tested in London, just that "To make sure we remain in control of this virus, we are focusing our testing capacity on the areas where it is most needed".
At the Heathrow test facility, a few cars passed but did not seem to be running at full capacity
The government released numbers today showing that 186,500 tests were conducted today
The latest numbers showed that an additional 1,295 people tested positive for the virus
COVID-19 STOVE IMMUNITY & # 39; CAN BE CLOSER THAN THOUGHTS & # 39;
The UK could be closer to herd immunity to Covid-19 than previously thought as surveillance studies are inherently flawed, top scientists said today.
According to research on antibody test results, only 7 percent of Britons and 17 percent of Londoners are infected and have recovered from the disease.
Experts made these estimates by testing random swaths of people for coronavirus antibodies in their blood, produced by the body in response to the disease.
It is believed that at least 60 percent of the population must have the virus for the group to achieve herd immunity. This is the case when a disease has run out of space and can no longer spread because too many people are immune to it.
In an editorial in the British Medical Journal today, scientists wouldn't say how false estimates could be, but careful surveillance studies could "dramatically underestimate" infection rates.
This is because the studies do not test all forms of antibodies, including those found in saliva, which can indicate mild or asymptomatic cases.
Most of the research on previous infections has looked for IgG and IgM antibodies, the most common types found in the blood that protect against viral infections.
Another type of antibody called IgA is not tested routinely. IgA is found in mucus and saliva in the mouth, nose, and airways – the main places where Covid-19 enters the body.
Those with these types of antibodies likely fought off the infection in its earliest stages, before it could dig deep into the lungs and spread through the blood.
In Luxembourg, IgA was found in 11 percent of people compared to 2 percent who tested positive with more conventional blood tests.
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Nachrichten (t) Coronavirus (t) Professor Chris Whitty