Containing the coronavirus outbreak in the UK could be the biggest operation in peacetime, two experts tell the Mirror.
Former UK Government adviser Daniel Sleat and Ryan Wain are two of the authors of The Path to Mass Testing, a report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
It a blueprint for how contact tracing can bring countries out of lockdown.
Here they write exclusively in the Mirror and discuss the only way the UK could ease its coronavirus lockdown before a vaccine is found – something which it was warned today could be many, many months away.
The Government has two choices. Remain in lockdown and suppress Covid-19 or leave lockdown and contain the virus.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned today that social distancing would likely remain in place until next year
We believe that containment is possible but only through mass testing and tracing.
This means millions of us being tested regularly and – should we test positive – being isolated along with those who have come into contact with us.
This is a huge operation. Perhaps the biggest in peacetime.
It is unclear when lockdown will lift
So when Matt Hancock set a target of 100,000 tests a day, it was ambitious but only the start of what needs to be done.
The truth is we will need much higher numbers of tests available and an army of people to deliver them.
We will need technology that doesn’t yet exist in Britain.
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Testing figures need to be much higher and accompanied by the right strategy on which groups the Government intends to roll out testing to.
We can look abroad for inspiration.
The Germans can test 700,000 per week and in South Korea they flattened their infection curve through mass community testing and contact tracing.
They were prepared better than the UK.
It’s critical that the structure of government changes during these extraordinary times.
Testing is so important that a senior Minister should oversee it, reporting directly to the Prime Minister and have a team of the brightest minds from outside politics who are experts in procurement, logistics and scaling big projects.
They should have the authority to find every inch of laboratory space in the country and use it for testing.
That’s what the renowned Robert Koch Institute did in Germany.
Finally, the government has shifted its gaze from antibody tests.
These tell you if you’ve had the disease and act like a pregnancy kit.
By understanding who has had the disease and is therefore at least short-term immune, we can reduce the number of people needing to be tested and return them to the frontline.
The Government cannot afford to fail this greatest of tests.