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Coronavirus: Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt calls for mass testing to end lockdown faster

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for mass testing to end the coronavirus lockdown faster.

He said the UK should be following the example of countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Germany who have used mass testing to successfully curb the spread of COVID-19.

“The restaurants are open in South Korea,” he wrote in The Sunday Telegraph.

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“You can go shopping in Taiwan. Offices are open in Singapore.

“These countries learned the hard way how to deal with a pandemic after the deadly SARS virus. They now show us how we can emerge from lockdown.”

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South Korea was the second hardest-hit country after China but with widespread testing managed to dramatically slow its infection rate, recording just 105 new cases on Sunday and fewer than ten deaths every day.

Mr Hunt also used Germany as an example as it has carried out four times as many tests as the UK and recorded only 342 deaths from the virus – fewer than half that of the UK.

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As of this weekend, testing for frontline NHS staff is being rolled out but Mr Hunt called for this to go further with “weekly tests for all NHS and care home staff to remove that worry” of them infecting patients as the disease incubates.

He admitted there is a worldwide shortage in testing supply chains, but said British scientists and manufacturers could create the infrastructure needed to test and process samples.

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“Mass social distancing should protect the NHS through the peak over the next few weeks, but it’s a blunt instrument with massive economic impact.

“For the next wave we must use the precision scalpel of mass testing.”

Britain’s longest serving health secretary said mass testing provides greater clarity to identify and contain potential outbreaks.

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“Where you find it, you can isolate and contain it,” he wrote.

“And where you don’t, vital services continue to function.

“With mass testing, accompanied by rigorous tracing of every person a COVID-19 patient has been in touch with, you can break the chain of transmission.”

In calling for contact tracing, he admitted it is resource intensive but suggested local government officials in planning departments and civil servants could carry it out.

Image: South Korea has carried out mass testing after cases soared very quickly

He used Singapore, which has had two deaths, as an example as everyone there has been asked to use a tracing app which swaps anonymous ID data so if you contract the virus everyone you have been near can be contacted.

Addressing the civil liberties implications of that, he said all data is encrypted and destroyed after 21 days and said Singaporeans “have had their liberties curtailed far less than countries which have had to go into full lockdown”.

SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-former-health-secretary-jeremy-hunt-calls-for-mass-testing-to-end-lockdown-faster-11965201

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