Jonathan Ashworth: ‘We’re still not testing enough’

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has urged the government to increase community testing for coronavirus.

He claimed that countries such as Germany and South Korea have been testing “thousands and thousands” more people per day compared to the UK.

The shadow health secretary told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham: “We’re still not testing enough.

“We’ve got a lockdown, but a lockdown will only be effective if we're expanding testing rapidly in the community.”

There are two types of tests for Covid-19 - one that tells you if you have the virus at present and another which tells you if you have had a past infection.

The antigen test tells you whether you are infected - the NHS is prioritising this kind testing of seriously ill people in hospital, though the government hopes to start rolling it out to NHS frontline workers in the next few days.

There has been no announcement regarding testing for other key workers.

The NHS is aiming to get to 25,000 of these tests per day, with the ultimate aim being several hundred thousand.

Earlier this week Health Secretary Matt Hancock told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer that mass population testing would be introduced “somewhere in-between” the coming days and weeks - but he refused to put an exact date on it.

His opposition counterpart said today: “I think we should have community testing, which is where everybody in the community who thinks they’ve got it can be tested, because that way, you know how many people are circulating in the community.”

Meanwhile, the UK has so far bought 3.5 million antibody tests - which determine whether you have every carried the virus in the past - and is ordering millions more.

Despite rumours, Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty has told the public that they should not expect these tests to be readily available within the next few days.

When they are available, Boris Johnson has said the antibody tests will be a “game-changer”.

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