Thursday 19 March 2020 5:24 AM UTC
London, March 19: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Parliament on Wednesday that the necessary steps are being put in place to ramp up tests for coronavirus, with the country”s frontline medical staff to be prioritised as they cope with rising numbers of patients contracting COVID-19.
The UK government has faced particular criticism for its perceived lack of focus on testing large numbers as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice on dealing with the pandemic, which has led to 71 deaths across Britain.
Doctors and nurses, including the thousands of Indian-origin staff represented by the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), have been lobbying the government for an urgent need to ensure that state-funded National Health Service (NHS) workers are tested on a priority basis to manage the growing pressure on the medical staff.
Addressing his weekly Prime Minister”s Questions (PMQs) before a sparse House of Commons as MPs were advised to stay away from Parliament unless asking a question, Johnson said that steps were being put in place for larger number of tests and to prioritise NHS staff.
“We are prioritising NHS staff for the obvious reason that we want them to be able to look after everybody else with confidence that they are not transmitting the disease,” Johnson said.
“This country is far ahead of many other comparable countries in testing large numbers of people,” he said, adding that the NHS would increase testing from 5,000 to 10,000 a day to eventually 25,000 a day.
A total of 44,000 tests have been carried out since the epidemic began gathering momentum in the UK in the last few weeks.
Johnson”s announcement comes as an online petition on change.org titled “Test frontline NHS staff for COVID-19 as a priority” attracted nearly a million signatories within days.
“Am a nurse working in the NHS and we are at the heart of all this,” said Nyarai Garande, one of the signatories.
“Healthcare workers are our frontline soldiers. Keep them safe if you want to keep people safe,” added Shalini Sinha, another supporter of the petition. PTI AK ZH ZH
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