Coronavirus: Testing rolled out for frontline NHS staff

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Frontline NHS staff in England will begin being tested this weekend to see if they have coronavirus.

Workers with symptoms or those who live with people who have symptoms will be checked – starting with critical care doctors and nurses.

It follows criticism over a lack of testing for health workers.

Meanwhile, the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock are self-isolating after testing positive for the virus.

Boris Johnson, 55, said he had experienced mild symptoms over the past 24 hours but would continue to lead the government’s response to the pandemic while working from his Downing Street home. Mr Hancock said his symptoms were also mild and he was working from home.

The number of people who have died with the virus in the UK rose by 181 to 759 on Friday, with 14,543 confirmed cases.

At a Downing Street news conference on Friday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said hundreds of antigen tests – which check whether people currently have the disease – would be given to frontline staff this weekend.

He said testing would be scaled up “dramatically” next week, with testing of ambulance crews, paramedics and GPs expected to follow. It will later be expanded to cover social care staff.

In Wales, frontline NHS staff are already being screened for the virus, while Scotland’s chief medical officer has confirmed a protocol for testing “significant” figures.

Analysis suggests the rate of infection in the UK has been doubling every three to four days, Mr Gove added.

Experts expect the number of cases to continue to increase over the next two to three weeks, before the effects of social distancing measures and restrictions on everyday life begin to have an impact.

It comes as the government updated its guidance on leaving the house to exercise ahead of the weekend, urging people to use “open spaces” near their home where possible and to not travel unnecessarily. – bbc.com

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