Matt Hancock has announced the nationwide coronavirus infection survey will increase from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight in England to 150,000 by October.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) aims to expand the survey to include 400,000 individuals and will be extended to cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The health secretary said it was “one of the biggest expansions of surveillance testing we have ever seen”.
“The ONS survey will be a crucial part of this work – improving our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies.
“This will allow us to further narrow down the areas potentially affected by local outbreaks and continue our fight to curb the spread ahead of winter.”
It comes as Heathrow Airport announced a new coronavirus testing facility in a bid to bring the mandatory 14-day travel quarantine to an end.
Passengers arriving at the airport will be able to book swab tests and have results sent to them in seven hours under the proposal, which is being used in Germany and Iceland. The programme is awaiting government approval before it can begin.
Matt Hancock rejects allegations of ‘cronyism’ over appointment of Dido Harding to run PHE replacement
Speaking to Times Radio, he responded to the suggestion there was a “whiff of cronyism” over the appointment, saying: “I strongly object to that. I ask people to do these important, big jobs who I think are best qualified to do it.”
He defended her appointment and said he had wanted someone with “preferably public sector and private sector experience” and has “clear leadership capability”.
Ms Harding was the chief of telecoms firm TalkTalk when it was hit with a major data breach. She has also faced harsh criticism over the lackadaisical performance of the NHS Test and Trace operation, which she runs.
Court orders house to be closed for three months after 200 people attend lockdown party
A house where 200 people attended a party has been hit with a three-month closure notice, meaning that only its owners and those living there can enter the premises.
The party on Saturday night saw police getting pelted with projectiles when they tried to shut it down, said Greater Manchester Police.
Aerial footage of the party showed dozens of people gathered in and around the house, ignoring social distancing rules.
Read the report by Andy Gregory below:
Oldham lockdown could be ‘catastrophic’, warns council leader
A local lockdown in Oldham, Greater Manchester, could be “really catastrophic”, the council leader has warned.
Labour councillor Sean Fielding urged ministers not to impose stricter measures in the town, even though “raw numbers” are similar to those in Leicester when it was put under local lockdown.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “We’re strongly making the case up here in Oldham that that would not be the right solution for the wave of the pandemic that we’re seeing.”
The town had a rate of 83.1 new cases per 100,000 in the week to 15 August, down from 109.7 in the seven days to 8 August, with 197 new cases.
Mr Fielding said it was “household transmission” that was driving the spread in Oldham , most cases are among the working age population and there has been little increase in hospital admissions or deaths.
But Matt Hancock did not rule out a local lockdown and warned the government would “have to take the same localised approach”.
Replacing Public Health England will not cause disruption, minister insists
Matt Hancock has denied that axing Public Health England and replacing it with the new National Institute for Health Protection will cause disruption.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t accept that there will be disruption. And the reason is we are bringing together under a single leadership these functions.”
Pressed on people working in PHE being concerned about jobs, he said: “No, I don’t accept that. In fact we’re putting more support in and we’re hiring and the budget is going up enormously.”
Heathrow Airport announces new coronavirus testing facility
Arriving passengers will be able to book swab tests and have results sent to them in seven hours under the proposal.
They can do a second test at home a few days later and leave quarantine early if they pass both checks.
The airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye wrote in the Daily Mail that it was ready to support the proposal “provided the Government sets clear guidelines for a second test and changes regulation to allow passengers who provide two negative tests to leave quarantine early”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News on Wednesday that ministers are working with Heathrow Airport and other airports on the project, but added the virus’ incubation period posed a challenge.
“The challenge is how to do that testing in a way that we can have confidence enough to release the quarantine,” he said.
“But it’s absolutely a project we’re working with Heathrow on because clearly I understand the impact of quarantine in so many people’s lives, it’s not something anybody would want to do so I hope this project can bear fruit.”
Oldham could be next to return to lockdown
The town of Oldham in Greater Manchester could be just 48 hours away from falling into more severe lockdown measures, it has been reported.
Oldham council leader Sean Fielding told the Guardian that despite being one of the northern regions where some restrictions have been kept, central government could make the decision very soon.
Vincent Wood reports:
Government to increase Covid-19 testing to 150,000 per fortnight
The government has announced the coronavirus infection survey will increase from regularly testing 28,000 people per fortnight in England to 150,000 in October.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the survey, carried out by the Office for National Statistics |(ONS), aims to include 400,000 individuals and to cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are developing the capacity to test for coronavirus on an unprecedented scale and undertaking one of the biggest expansions of surveillance testing we have ever seen.
“This ONS survey will be a crucial part of this work – improving our understanding of the rate of infection in the population and how many people have antibodies.
“This will allow us to further narrow down the areas potentially affected by local outbreaks and continue our fight to curb the spread ahead of winter.
“The data and insight gathered will help inform our national, regional and local responses to the pandemic, allowing this nation to get back to the things we love doing.”
Good morning, and welcome to The Independent‘s liveblog following the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis.