What do we know about coronavirus testing?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 April 2020
With many questions about coronavirus testing, we look at everything we know so far.
What is and isn’t being tested?
At the moment, the government has been focusing on swab testing to find out who has the disease at the moment from certain categories of people.
The third pillar of Matt Hancock’s testing plans is to look at antibody testing. This would let you know who may have had the virus already and perhaps not even known.
The problem is finding tests that are reliable and accurate.
“Antibody tests offer the hope that people who think they have had the disease will know they are immune and get back to life as normal,” said Mr Hancock.
“But crucially, they have to be proven to work.”
A mass study into antibody testing began on Thursday and will see up to 300,000 taking part in the next 12 months.
The hope is that the study will help track the extent of transmission and infection in the UK while also answering questions on virus immunity.
Who is being tested?
West Suffolk MP and health secretary Matt Hancock has said that the priority for testing from the start has been seriously ill patients.
However, as time has gone on, testing has been expanded to include a number of different professions on the frontline of combatting the virus;
• All NHS and social care staff, including hospital, community and primary care, relevant staff providing support to frontline NHS services, and voluntary workers.
• Police, fire and rescue services, including the National Crime Agency, security agencies, Ministry of Defence police and the British Transport Police
local authority staff, including those working with vulnerable children and adults, with victims of domestic abuse, and with the homeless and rough sleepers.
• Other frontline workers in a number of areas including food production, utility companies, funeral industry and those in medical supplies.
On Thursday, Mr Hancock announced at the daily Downing Street briefing all essential workers will be able to directly book a test for free.
Where is testing being carried out in Suffolk at the moment?
Drive-through testing stations have been set up across the country.
One of the newest testing stations in Suffolk is in Ipswich, at the London Road Park and Ride site.
It was initially thought that this facility would be testing non-NHS key workers, such as carers and care home employees. However, this has since changed and now NHS staff are also being tested at this site.
What are the facilities like?
One person who went to the testing facility in Ipswich described what the experience was like.
“You are waved through between the white portacabins by people with hi-vis on,” the person said.
“Then you are asked to stop the car in a bay and call a mobile number.
“There’s a maze of pathways between the cones joined together by red tape and from there you are moved through to open sided marquees with other people in hi-vis and surgical masks, and clear plastic aprons inside.
“On the way out, there is a Department for Health and Social Care sign saying ‘thank you for your vital work’.
How does in car testing work?
All those required to take the test are given an instructional leaflet when they enter the testing facilities.
The test itself consists of taking a swab from the back of the nose and throat, as directed in leaflets handed out at the facilities.
The swab goes into a sample tube which is labelled and packaged up.
The box is then placed in a collection unit as you drive away from the centre.
At each stage, those being tested are told to clean their hands with hand sanitiser or use gloves provided.
How do you get referred?
Current government advice suggests that frontline key workers should speak to their employers.
Employers of frontline workers will be provided with information on how to make an appointment for their staff through their local resilience forum (where the local region chooses to organise testing in this way), their associated national department or agency, or directly through the Department of Health and Social Care.
Non-keyworkers should call 101 for advice on their symptoms.
How many people have been tested so far?
The government releases the numbers of tests carried out and the number of people tested each day. There can be a difference between the two, as some patients may be tested more than once.
More than 500,000 tests have been carried out to date.
In Ipswich, it is reported that 508 tests have been carried out at the new drive-through facility. A further 190 tests were expected to take place on Thursday.
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