Coronavirus Testing & PPE

In terms of policy with regard to testing and PPE, please know that the Government is doing everything it can at this time, following the medical and scientific advice, to provide the solutions and healthcare measures to get us through this pandemic.

The Government is fully aware of the importance of testing as many people as possible. They are rapidly increasing the number of tests that are carried out throughout the country, with the goal of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by end of the month, including 25,000 tests a day for both patients and staff in the NHS. 

As I am sure you can appreciate, the priority is to make sure that those tests are being used on the people who need them the most. It goes without saying that as we expand our testing capability, the number of people who can have those tests will also expand – but the priority must remain all patients in critical care or being admitted to hospitals for pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome or flu-like illness. The Government is expanding testing to critical NHS staff, and their families, to help ensure they can stay in work if they test negative, and to get them back to work as quickly as possible if they have symptoms. Once widespread testing is available, it will test critical NHS staff and other critical key workers repeatedly, including some weekly, to keep them safe and ensure they do not spread the virus. As we ramp up we will expand testing to all NHS staff, and critical key workers, then to all key workers, and then to the whole population. NHS staff, care workers and other medical professionals are on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, and I am in awe of their dedication, skill and professionalism. Let me assure you that ministers are doing everything they can to ensure the NHS has the equipment and resources it needs to get our country through this crisis. 

A military-sized operation is underway to ensure the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) over the coming weeks and months. The Government has already shipped millions of items of PPE and, from this week, the Army will play its part by offering service personnel to help manage and offload supplies in busy NHS settings. 

A new NHS-run PPE hotline has also been set up, which allows healthcare organisations to place orders 24 hours a day.  The issues of getting PPE out to care homes are being raised at all levels of Government.

The Government is not underestimating the size of this challenge, but the Prime Minister has said he will do everything in his power to keep healthcare workers safe as they care for the rest of society. We know there is more to do in this area, and the full weight of the Government is working to deliver that as quickly as possible. 

Best wishes
Neil