Matt Hancock has pledged to test 100,000 people in the UK a day for coronavirus after the government came under fire for not doing enough.
But despite fears a lack of testing could hamper Britain's fight against the deadly COVID-19, the Health Secretary admitted such widespread testing won't be implemented for some weeks.
Speaking at Downing Street on Thursday (April 2) evening, the Cabinet Minister outlined a five-point plan to do 100,000 daily tests by the end of April.
He said they would carry out 25,000 swab tests a day for coronavirus patients at NHS hospitals and Public Health England laboratories. Currently, they are doing 10,000 a day.
Not until the end of April
The government will also team up with commercial partners such as Boots, Amazon and universities to ramp up swab testing capacity. This will create new labs and testing sites for NHS workers and their families.
The Health Secretary likewise discussed bringing in finger-prick antibody tests that take just 20 minutes. The government, he said, is currently working with nine firms to look at whether or not the tests work.
Another point in his plan was to boost virus 'surveillance'. The hope is that the antibody tests will help authorities understand the way coronavirus has spread around the UK.
Working with commercial partners
Lastly, the Health Secretary wants to build the UK's diagnostics industry with big pharma companies such as GSK and Astra Zeneca.
He went on to promise that all NHS staff will be able to get tested by the end of April. He told reporters: "That is the goal and I'm determined we're going to get there."
That is the goal.
He said: "Today, to help NHS trusts to deliver what's needed without worrying about past finances, I can announce that I am writing off £13.4billion of historic NHS debt.
"This landmark step will not only put the NHS in a strong position to be able to respond to this global coronavirus pandemic.
"But it will ensure that our NHS has stronger foundations for our future too."
The Health Secretary also announced a £300million pot to fund community pharmacies. He said they "do so much to get vital medicines to people and play such an important part in their communities".
"They themselves are the NHS front line," he added.
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