Prime Minister announces 'ambitious' mass coronavirus testing plans as he hopes for some normality by Christmas
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The Prime Minister also revealed ambitious plans for a pregnancy-style test – with a rapid turn-around result in minutes – enabling people to know whether or not they are infectious.
Mr Johnson said that this ‘moonshot’ way of testing would allow people to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus.
At the Downing Street press conference, he said: “Up to now, we have used testing primarily to identify people who are positive – so we can isolate them from the community and protect high risk groups.
“And that will continue to be our priority. We are working hard to increase our testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.
“But in future, in the near future, we want to start using testing to identify people who are negative – who don’t have coronavirus and who are not infectious – so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way, in the knowledge they cannot infect anyone else with the virus.
“And we think, we hope, we believe that new types of test which are simple, quick and scalable will become available.
“They use swabs or saliva and can turn round results in 90 or even 20 minutes.
“Crucially, it should be possible to deploy these tests on a far bigger scale than any country has yet achieved – literally millions of tests processed every single day.”
With this form of testing, theatres and sports venues could test all audience members and let in those with a negative result, the Prime Minster said.
Mr Johnson added: “Now that is an ambitious agenda, but we are going to pilot this approach in Salford from next month, with audiences in indoor and outdoor venues. And then we hope to go nationwide.”
Asked if Christmas was now now effectively cancelled, Mr Johnson said: “Whether we are going to get things back to normal at all by Christmas, I’m still hopeful, as I’ve said before, that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.
"Through that moonshot of daily testing – everybody gets a pregnancy-style test, a rapid turn-around test in the morning, 15 minutes later you know whether you are infectious of not.
“You may not know whether you are infected or not, but you know whether you are infectious, or not, and that gives you a kind of passport, a freedom to mingle with everybody else who is similarly not infectious in a way that is currently impossible.”
He added: “We are aiming for that. We are driving for that. As I have said…we cannot be 100% sure that we can deliver that in its entirety.”