LONDON (Reuters) - Britain promised on Wednesday to test all residents and employees of nursing homes who have COVID-19 symptoms after official data showed the death toll from the pandemic was far higher when the elderly in care were included.
At the moment Britain tests the first five residents who have symptoms but health minister Matt Hancock said that would be expanded as laboratory capacity is boosted.
“Testing is key in our battle against coronavirus, and as part of our plan to prevent the spread and save lives we will ensure that everyone in social care who needs a test can have a test,” he said.
The expansion is part of government plans to increase testing to 100,000 a day by the end of the month after facing criticism that it has not gone as far as countries such as Germany.
On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics said 5,979 people in England had died by April 3 with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, mentioned on their death certificates - 15% higher than numbers published by the health service.
Daily figures published by the health ministry only record deaths in hospital and do not include fatalities in the community such as in care homes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration is also facing calls from the opposition Labour Party to detail this week its plan for lifting lockdown measures, which have shut down large parts of the economy for the last three weeks and are due to be reviewed by Thursday.
“Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS (National Health Service) and save lives,” said a government source late on Tuesday.
Reporting by Costas Pitas; additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Jonathan Oatis
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.