Thursday 2 April 2020 8:18 am

Boris Johnson: Testing is key to unlocking UK coronavirus ‘puzzle’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said a big increase in testing is the way to “unlock the puzzle” of the UK coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister admitted the government must “massively ramp up” testing after it emerged just 2,000 frontline NHS workers have been tested for coronavirus.

Read more: Just 2,000 frontline NHS England staff have had coronavirus tests

Read more: Study: UK coronavirus cases will decline in coming weeks

A rapid increase in NHS testing was necessary to ensure sidelined staff currently self-isolating can return to work, Johnson said.

Coronavirus testing ‘the way through’

Johnson, who has caught coronavirus and is currently self-isolating above 11 Downing Street, responded to criticism over the government’s testing strategy in a Twitter video.

“I want to say a special word about testing, because it is so important, and as I have said for weeks and weeks, this is the way through,” he said.

“This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end.”

His address came just hours after the UK coronavirus death toll jumped by 563 to 2,352 yesterday.

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Coronavirus cases to top 1m within days

And the World Health Organization (WHO) warned worldwide coronavirus cases would hit 1m in a few days’ time. The health body predicted a death toll of above 50,000 in the coming days.

The WHO’s advice to countries has been to “test, test, test” for coronavirus to bring the outbreak under control.

But the UK has lagged behind other countries’ test rates.

The government wants to more than double tests to 25,000 a day in a fortnight. However, South Korea has already tested four times as many people for coronavirus as the UK. Germany has tripled the UK’s coronavirus testing numbers, and the US has doubled it.

Read more: UK urged to include private sector to ramp up coronavirus testing

And last night a think tank urged the government to include private sector laboratories to speed up coronavirus testing.

The Adam Smith Institute’s proposal to include dozens of university laboratories and 120 private British labs won the support of former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Hunt said the UK should be “tapping into every laboratory, every pharmaceutical company and every university in the country without delay”.