The Health Secretary told the BBC’s Today programme that the government would bring in mass testing and ministers were working as ‘fast as we can’ on the scheme that is crucial for a further return to normality.
His pledge follows months of calls from top experts and politicians to set-up a mass-testing programme. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair warned it was the only way to prevent a second wave and said Britain is ‘running out of time’ to get a scheme up-and-running.
But Mr Hancock was vague on details when he revealed the government was trialling new tests, saying some give results in just 10 minutes and rely on saliva — cutting out the need to have long swabs stuck down throats. Current tests can take several days to produce results because they need to be sent to laboratories.
Around 100,000 people are being tested for coronavirus each day — but academics have warned it needs to be scaled-up massively to cope with the coughs and colds that will arise this winter.
Mass-testing allows ministers to see exactly where outbreaks are and stops infected people unknowingly spreading it. Rapid coronavirus tests could also mean travellers do not need to quarantine for the full two weeks, if they come back negative.