Quarter of Britons could be tested for coronavirus to shorten lockdown period

One in four Britons could be tested for coronavirus to try to shorten the lockdown.

In a sign that ministers have finally accepted the urgency of mass testing, officials have agreed deals to buy 17.5million kits for use by mid-April. 

They hope to identify contagion hotspots as well as people who are immune.

Britain is currently conducting only ¿antigen¿ testing ¿ a swab that requires laboratory analysis. A drive through test facility is pictured above in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures, London

Britain is currently conducting only ‘antigen’ testing – a swab that requires laboratory analysis. A drive through test facility is pictured above in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures, London

The tests would help get NHS staff back to work with screening of frontline workers, such as teachers and police officers, to follow.

The programme could see movement restrictions lifted earlier than the six months suggested by the Government’s scientific advisers yesterday. 

‘The top priority is randomised testing to establish how far the disease has spread,’ a Whitehall source said. 

‘That is critical to understanding what we are dealing with and shaping our response.’

Medical equipment is pictured outside London's Excel centre, which has been turned into NHS Nightingale Hospital. One in four Britons could be tested for coronavirus to try to shorten the lockdown

Medical equipment is pictured outside London's Excel centre, which has been turned into NHS Nightingale Hospital. One in four Britons could be tested for coronavirus to try to shorten the lockdown

Officials have identified suppliers that can make the tests and have agreed ‘in principle’ to purchase 17.5million if they pass medical checks. 

Britain is currently conducting only ‘antigen’ testing – a swab that requires laboratory analysis.

However the new ‘antibody’ fingerprick tests take 15 minutes to detect whether someone has had the virus.

Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary, believes testing is key to the relaxation of social distancing measures.

Writing in today’s Daily Mail, he asks: ‘Is it too far-fetched to aim to be the first country that tests every single member of the population at home? In these extraordinary times, with our great British willpower anything is possible.

In a sign that ministers have finally accepted the urgency of mass testing, officials have agreed deals to buy 17.5million kits for use by mid-April. They hope to identify contagion hotspots as well as people who are immune. An NHS worker is pictured above being tested for the virus in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in London

In a sign that ministers have finally accepted the urgency of mass testing, officials have agreed deals to buy 17.5million kits for use by mid-April. They hope to identify contagion hotspots as well as people who are immune. An NHS worker is pictured above being tested for the virus in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in London 

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‘Mass social distancing will help flatten the curve, but only testing will save us from months, maybe

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