Public Health England ‘working around the clock’ to boost testing

Thursday, April 2, 2020

A senior Public Health England professor has denied that problems with funding, bureaucracy or industry egos have contributed to the UK’s delay in coronavirus testing.

Paul Cosford, emeritus chief medical officer for PHE, told talkRADIO that coordinating mass testing for Covid-19 was “not a simple process”.

“Would I rather be in a place where we’ve got many more tests already? Of course I would,” he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

Professor Cosford continued: “If there were anything that we could have done to do that we would have done it and we’re working around the clock to make sure we do.”

PHE and the government have faced intense pressure this week to massively expand testing, following accusations that they had been too slow and had snubbed offers of help from the wider scientific community.

Attempting to get to the bottom of what may have gone wrong, Julia put it to the professor that the process was being hindered by a lack of funding, a bureaucratic problem or “ego” issues.

She said: “If it needed to be done and it’s not being done, it’s someone's fault isn’t it?”

Professor Cosford responded: “The truth is this is not a simple process”

“We’ve been trying to do this in about two or three weeks and it’s very difficult to get all of that right as quickly as we need to.”

He said the department had been holding “extensive discussions” with other countries such as Germany about how they have been executing national-scale testing, but said the pressure on supplies was a “global issue”.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that that testing is available to the British public as much as is possible and I am confident that will be boosting, growing, over coming days and weeks but it's not easy.”

Boris Johnson took to Twitter last night to stress the importance of testing, saying it is how “we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle”.

In a video message the Prime Minister said the government needed to “massively ramp up” testing so NHS staff who are self-isolating unnecessarily could return to work.

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