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UK government officials are working to increase the number of people tested for COVID-19 by Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS to 25,000 hospital patients a day, the department of health and social care announced on Wednesday. "The increased capacity is expected to be ready within four weeks, with highest-priority cases being tested first," the government said.
"Over 50,000 tests for coronavirus have already been completed," the government noted, adding "it is anticipated that, with increased capacity to 25,000 daily, testing levels in the UK could soon exceed that in China."
The increased testing will also include developing a point-of-care swab test that can be completed outside of hospitals. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked companies to work with the government to rapidly develop a test to establish whether people have developed immunity, aiming to help NHS and other critical public sector staff to return to work quickly.
Sharon Peacock, director of the National Infection Service at PHE, remarked that "this is a timely boost to the UK's testing capacity, which is a vital element in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic."
In early March, NHS hospital laboratories started testing swab samples from people who were displaying symptoms of coronavirus to ease the strain on PHE. It was projected that the move would double the tests that could be completed daily in the UK from 2000 to 4000. Last week, the NHS and PHE increased testing to 5000 a day and by next week the government said it is hoped that testing will increase to 10,000 per day.
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