Government to scale up COVID-19 testing capacity
The Government’s national testing study is due to be expanded with a rise in fortnightly testing from 28,000 to 150,000 by October. It was announced today that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) intends to significantly expand its survey, growing the number of participants to 400,000 in England. Such an increase will make it the largest study tracking COVID-19 infections in the general population. It is expected that key insights will be taken from the widened study, these will feed into a larger picture of the spread of coronavirus throughout the UK and additionally facilitate a granular view of smaller, local cases or clusters of the virus.
The ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey is led by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and draws on the world-leading scientific expertise of the University of Oxford. The ONS has now partnered with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to extend the study across all the devolved nations. This will allow for a comparative view of spreading cases in these regions and further data to be collected. The ONS will also prioritise the ramping up of testing in areas such as London and the North West of England which are experiencing upticks in the number of virus cases.
Alongside this study’s expansion, the government is providing a £2 million grant to the ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Study app to support its data collection. The app can provide researchers with clues on potential virus outbreaks across the UK, Government does not access the data. Regarding the ONS study growth, Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that it will be a ‘crucial part of’ testing ‘on an unprecedented scale’ and will lead to ‘improving our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies.’