Robert Jenrick: ‘Global shortage’ affecting coronavirus testing

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cabinet Minister Robert Jenrick has blamed a “global shortage” for the delay in boosting coronavirus testing in the UK, as he admitted there was “more to be done”

The government is under increasing pressure to increase testing for Covid-19, as the death toll in Britain jumped to 1,789 yesterday.

NHS staff, as well as the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association have all said testing of frontline staff is desperately needed.

Critics have also warned that mass community testing is the only safe way of lifting the lockdown without risking a fresh outbreak of the virus.

Mr Jenrick told talkRADIO that the government was working with expert advisers to “ramp up” testing efforts, but blamed a high global demand for the delay.

“The government strategy is not set in stone, this is a fast moving situation and our strategy moves with it,” he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.

The Housing and Communities Secretary went on: “We’re trying to import as many tests as we can but obviously the nature of a global pandemic is that there is a global shortage of these tests because demand is exceptionally high.

“We’re trying to work with British manufacturers and if there are labs at universities and elsewhere that we’re not making full use of then we should do.”

It comes after fellow Cabinet Minster Michael Gove yesterday said a shortage of the chemical reagents needed for the tests was a “critical constraint” on the government’s ability to boost capacity.

The Chemical Industries Association acknowledged demand was “escalating” but said reagents were being manufactured and delivered to the NHS.

According to the government current capacity for testing stands at around 12,000 tests per day, which would be raised to 15,000 “within days” and up to 25,000 by mid April.

Mr Jenrick added that the government has pre-purchased “millions” of antibody tests - to determine whether someone has already had the virus - which are still in development.

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