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Coronavirus: Diagnostic test rolled out across UK

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So far 8 patients have tested positive PHE intends to increase testing capacity to 1,000 people a day in England

A novel coronavirus diagnostic test developed by Public Health England (PHE) is being rolled out to laboratories across the UK.

The increase in diagnostic capacity from one laboratory in London to 12 labs will accelerate the country’s testing capabilities. The UK was one of the first countries outside China to have assured testing capability for the novel coronavirus. At PHE’s laboratories in London, it has the capacity to process samples from more than 100 people a day.

To ensure that the country is prepared for further cases and to speed up the time from a sample being taken to a result in the lab, the test will be carried out by trained scientists across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This increases testing capacity to more than 1,000 people a day for England.

‘Once China confirmed that they had identified a novel coronavirus, Public Health England was ready to test potential cases in this country,’ said Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England. ‘We have now trained scientists in labs across the UK to conduct the specialist test – ensuring that we are well prepared should we begin to see an increased number of cases across the country.’

As of 12 February, a total of 1,758 people have been tested, of which 1,750 were confirmed negative and eight positive.

‘As of today, eight people in England have tested positive for coronavirus,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

‘All are receiving expert care from the NHS, which is well prepared and equipped to deal with this kind of situation. Contact tracing of the first four cases has been undertaken rapidly and is now complete, while tracing for the latest four cases is ongoing. This contact tracing itself identified five of the cases – a tribute to the skill and tenacity of Public Health England staff – as well as finding a further five British nationals in France who have also tested positive for the virus.’

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