Britain’s coronavirus death toll jumped to a record 381 on Tuesday as ministers admitted they had problems getting the tests needed to keep NHS staff at work as the crisis draws near. apogee.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the government was struggling to guarantee “the supply of specific chemicals to ensure test reliability” because the government’s testing strategy was attacked.
Jeremy Hunt, former Conservative Secretary of Health, called on ministers to follow countries like South Korea and Singapore by adopting a massive increase in community tests, including quarantining those suspected of having the disease , in order to propose an exit strategy from the current lock.
But the prospect of such a brutal change seemed very unlikely, given that hospitals are struggling to administer even 10,000 tests a day – a goal that, according to Gove, had been reached last weekend.
According to the latest daily data, some 8,240 people were tested, while Downing Street admitted that it could be “mid to late April” before 25,000 daily tests are administered. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on March 18 that he hoped to achieve this goal by April 15.
Gove said the new death figure was “deeply shocking” and that the tests should go “further and faster”, but his admission that the NHS was experiencing a shortage of reagents – a key ingredient in the tests to determine whether someone is suffering from the virus – is a potentially serious problem.
Switzerland Roche, which makes one of the most common types of test kits in the world and works with the UK to test 25,000 buffers a day last week, came under fire in the Netherlands after the lawmakers have accused them of rationing supplies and not sharing the formula. for the chemical used to perform these tests.
The company denied the allegations but ultimately shared the formula with the Dutch government. A Roche spokesperson said the company produces as many chemicals as possible, but “at the height of any global health emergency, demand will outweigh supply.”
Most tests available in Britain are used to assess patients arriving at the hospital with symptoms of coronavirus, leaving few available to screen hundreds of thousands of NHS staff, allowing them to return to work if they are clear.
With one in four doctors on sick leave or self-isolated, hospitals are expected to face severe stress in the weeks to come. The latest figures show that around 1,789 coronavirus patients died in UK hospitals, up from 381 the day before.
Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, said hospitals were prepared for a “push” of cases, but said there were “green shoots” that encouraged him to think that drastic measures of social distancing were working.
Powis said there was “a sign of a plateau” in the number of daily hospital admissions and that they were not accelerating, but added: “We have not come out of the woods, we are a lot in the woods. “
Gove said NHS hospitals will receive the first of a new wave of ventilators next week, saying they will start leaving the production line on weekends.
The Cabinet Office said the device was manufactured by a consortium of teams from Formula 1 McLaren and Mercedes, Ford, Siemens and Meggitt.
Government officials have confirmed that only 30 new UK-made fans will arrive this weekend. However, they insisted that these would be the first of thousands and that others would continue to arrive next week.
Some 10,767 people have been hospitalized in England for the disease, including 3,915 in London. Powis said there had been an “accelerated” number of cases in the Midlands, with 1,918 hospital admissions.
Hunt said the government should now change course and move to “mass community testing”. Citing examples from South Korea, Germany and Wuhan in China, he said, “There is international evidence that this is the most effective way to break the chain of transmission.”
Hunt said Asian countries could have contained the virus by using aggressive testing and contact identification, including quarantine measures, without causing massive economic disruption.
Britain stopped testing people with mild symptoms of the disease on March 12 and Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health for England, insisted that the epidemic in Britain had characteristics different from the situation in South Korea, where there had been “a very large epidemic in two Locations”.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has lifted import taxes on medical equipment used to fight coronaviruses, effectively shifting the cost of the NHS to another arm of the government: HM Revenue & Customs.
NHS providers will no longer have to pay customs duties and import VAT on specific medical products from outside the EU, including ventilators, coronavirus test kits and protective clothing .
The Treasury insisted that this decision was not a gimmick, arguing that it would reduce red tape at the border and that it “would make it more attractive to businesses who want to give us or give away equipment”.