But it has been criticized by some experts for not testing widely enough, and people have been complaining online about not having access to tests despite having symptoms.
Reasons for testing
There are two main reasons for testing people – to diagnose them individually, and to try to understand how far the virus has spread in the wider population. This second reason is referred to as “surveillance testing”.
This can involve mass testing people even if they do not have symptoms, or testing samples of people with symptoms, to get an idea of the total number of people with the virus. Positive results can also be used to try to trace the contacts of people who are known to be infected.
The failure to test more widely means that many people might be self-isolating for no good reason.
Should the UK be testing more people?
The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had a “simple message” for all countries: “Test, test, test.”
He added: “We cannot stop this pandemic if we do not know who is infected”.
So why is the UK not testing more people?
Ultimately, this mainly comes down to resources. Every country is limited by how much money, equipment, and staff it has – it is not going to be possible to test every single person, so healthcare systems had have to prioritize.
“To have any impact on the spread of this virus there has to be more widespread testing out in the community…” (WHO)
South Korea, where “active community surveillance” has been far more extensive and has had “a major impact on flattening the curve and relieving pressure on stretched health services”.
Scientists are working towards a test to see whether someone has had the disease in the past, by checking for the presence of antibodies (produced by the body to fight off infection).
This test is CE marked and only for use by a professional. It identifies the body’s response to Coronavirus after the onset of infection and gives a qualitative yes/no result within 10 mins.
We only need a finger prick sample to carry out the test.
This test is able to identify infection in even mild/moderate or asymptomatic cases, with 97.8-99.6% accuracy for antibody detection.