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Coronavirus: Five and overs in UK now eligible for test


Everyone aged five and over in the UK with symptoms can now be tested for coronavirus, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced.
He was speaking in Parliament after the loss of taste or smell was added to the list of Covid-19 symptoms, alongside a fever and a new persistent cough.
Mr Hancock said the government was “expanding eligibility for testing further than ever before”.
He added 100,678 tests had been conducted on Sunday.
Testing in England and Scotland has been limited to people with symptoms who are key workers and their families, hospital patients, care home residents, over-65s and those who need to leave home to work.
In Wales and Northern Ireland it was just key workers, hospital workers and care home residents.
A further 160 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in the UK as of 17:00 BST on Sunday taking the total to 34,796 – the highest figure in Europe.
Earlier, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the extension of testing there as she revealed lockdown measures would be eased from 28 May.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has also announced an easing of lockdown including new rules to allow groups of four to six people who do not share a household to meet outdoors.
Mr Hancock said 21,000 people had been recruited to conduct contact-tracing in England, including 7,500 healthcare workers.
This is when people who have come into contact with someone with the virus are tracked down and potentially asked to self-isolate.
The new recruits will be trained to identify people and advise them on whether to isolate.
The health secretary said: “Over the past seven weeks this country has taken a small specialised diagnostics industry and scaled it at breathtaking pace into a global champion.”
Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth pressed the government on the time taken for results to be received on whether someone had Covid-19 or not.
He also asked if facilities could be set up in order to allow poorer people to be able to self-isolate if they are required to do so and whether those in insecure work would be guaranteed sick pay if they were asked to isolate.
Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the government’s record on testing and the development of the test and trace app.
He said: “We are learning all the way as we go through this pandemic, not just on the scientific side but on the innovation that we need to get a grip on it.
“We are making good progress on the testing and on the tracing and on the pilot in the Isle of Wight in relation to the app.”
The foreign secretary said the app would be ready in “the coming weeks” but could not confirm it would be ready before children start returning to school.
The expansion of the testing programme may grab the headlines.
It is a significant milestone – in less than two months the UK has gone from only being able to test hospital patients and health and care staff to offering it more or less population-wide.
But it should not mask the difficulties that remain getting the test, track and trace system up-and-running.
This will be essential to contain local outbreaks as we ease ourselves out of lockdown.
Tests are still taking too long to turnaround for some – significant numbers are thought to be waiting several days – while the piloting of the tracking app on the Isle of Wight is not yet finished.
One particular concern is that the app does not yet let users know if the person they have had contact with ends up testing positive. Instead, it has only let them know if the contact has developed symptoms.
That is a major problem. It means people have been left in limbo and incorporating that feature into the app will be important.
Progress is being made, but getting a workable and efficient system in place soon is still a monumental challenge.
The prime minister has set a target for a daily capacity of 200,000 by the end of the month and last week the UK had reached a capacity of 150,000 a day.
So far the most tests done in a day is 136,000, on Friday, but this included kits posted out and not necessarily returned.
Mr Hancock also said the government is in the “closing stages” of negotiations to purchase new Covid-19 antibody tests.
A test developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche was approved for use by Public Health England last week.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Prof Jonathan Van-Tam told Monday’s press briefing that only once there was a vaccine “really capable of suppressing disease levels” will the country be “out of this”.
“So from that perspective we may have to live, and learn to live, with this virus in the long-term, certainly for many months to come if not several years,” he said.
He added it was unclear if there was seasonality to the virus and whether it would come back in autumn and winter.
On Sunday the government announced it had an agreement for 30 million doses of a vaccine if a trial at the University of Oxford was successful.