Everyone aged over five with coronavirus symptoms now eligible for Covid-19 test, Matt Hancock says
Everyone over the age of five in the UK is now eligible for a coronavirus test if they are experiencing symptoms, Matt Hancock has said.
The health secretary said eligibility had been extended so anyone with symptoms can book a test online, thanks to the UK's "small" diagnostic industry being "scaled" at "breathtaking pace into a global champion".
Pointing to a newly recognised coronavirus symptom, Mr Hancock said anyone experiencing a loss or change in their sense of smell, even without any other coronavirus symptom, should self-isolate for seven days.
He said 100,678 tests were carried out on Sunday, with the government now working "towards our new goal of total capacity of 250,00 tests a day".
Tests can be booked online - those without internet access in England and Wales can call 119, while people in Scotland or Northern Ireland should call 0300 303 2713.
The health secretary warned the testing system will "continue to prioritise access to tests for NHS and social care patients residents".
Mr Hancock with test capacity increasing "every day", the UK now had all the "elements we need to roll out our national test and trace service".
The other elements, he said, are the NHS contact tracing app and an army of contact tracers who will work together to track coronavirus wherever it goes in the country.
He said more than 21,000 contact tracers have been recruited in England to help manually trace the contacts of anyone who has had a positive Covid-19 test.
“They will help manually trace the contacts of anyone who’s had a positive test and advise them on whether they need to isolate.
"They have rigorous training with detailed procedures designed by our experts at Public Health England."
Some 7,500 health care professionals are part of the contact tracing team and will provide call handlers with "expert clinical advice".
He thanked those who have signed up to help, saying “they have stepped up to serve their county in its hour of need and I want to thank them in advance for the lifesaving work that they’re about to do.”
He said the NHS contact tracing app, is being “successfully piloted” on the Isle of Wight, adding: “We are ready and preparing for rolling out that system.”
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth pressed the Government on the time taken for results to be received regarding whether someone has Covid-19 or not.
Loss of smell or taste added to NHS coronavirus symptoms list
He told MPs: “Can he (Mr Hancock) tell us what is the current median time for test results to be received by someone when carried out by Deloitte and other private-sector testing facilities?
“And how soon do directors of public health and GPs receive those results?”
Mr Hancock said the median time for receiving test results is “under 48 hours” and said the R rate is kept under review, noting: “If we see an outbreak in an area then we will be perfectly prepared to take action in that area.”
Mr Hancock told MPs in the Commons that “the number of people in hospital with coronavirus is half what it was at the peak” and that “the number of patients in critical care is down by two-thirds”.
On the new symptom, he said: “Throughout this pandemic we’ve said that if you develop a new continuous cough or a fever, then you should immediately self-isolate.
“From today we are including anosmia, which means that if you have lost your sense of smell or are experiencing a change in your normal sense of smell or taste, that can be a symptom of coronavirus, even where the other symptoms are not present."