Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Head of the World Health Organisation today said:

“WHO continues to call on all countries to implement a comprehensive approach with the aim of slowing down transmission and ‘flattening the curve’. This approach is saving lives and buying time for the development of vaccines and treatments.

To suppress and control the epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace…. WHO continues to recommend that isolating, TESTING and treating EVERY SUSPECTED CASE AND TRACING EVERY CONTACT must be the backbone of the response in every country! This is the best hope of preventing widespread community transmission….

Many countries are listening to our call and finding solutions to increase their ability to implement the full package of measures that have turned the tide in several countries….

A month ago, the Republic of Korea was faced with accelerating community transmission, but it didn’t surrender. It educated, empowered and engaged communities. It’s developed an innovative testing strategy and expanded lab capacity…. It did exhaustive contact tracing and testing in selected areas and it isolated selected cases in designated facilities….. As a result, cases have been declining for weeks. At their peak, there were more than 800 (new) cases and yesterday the report was only 90 cases.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, interviewed on the BBC on Sunday said:

“(Early) Testing is essential because it leads to early detection, it minimises further spread and it quickly treats those found with the virus. That’s the key behind our very low fatality rate. (As of Sunday, South Korea had tested 268,000 people!) Our system quickly approved the testing system after the Chinese authorities released the genetic sequence of the virus in mid-January. We have a simple message for all countries: Test, Test, Test!”

And of course, testing goes alongside ‘contact tracing’. Once a positive test is determined, contact tracing means contacting all the people that person had close contact with in the previous few days and telling them they need to self-isolate. To reduce transmission, BOTH testing and contact tracing are necessary.

Meanwhile, as per the NHS website below, our government’s approach/advice has been……

‘If you have Corona Virus symptoms, stay at home but you do not need to contact the NHS (or anyone) and you do not need a test!!’

Testing has only been taking place when people with more severe symptoms are admitted to hospital.

The NHS/Gov website info page (see picture below) has now removed the section that for about the last week said: “Community Coronavirus Testing Has Stopped: The government has changed the advice for people with Coronavirus symptoms. You no longer need testing.” However, no information regarding testing or contact tracing is now visible. It now says to use the NHS 111 online service to find out what to do (or ‘only phone 111 if you cannot get help online).

Who now knows whether testing and contact tracing is now available for people at home with symptoms.

Following widespread and international criticism, our government has backtracked from their notion of “allowing the virus to spread through the population” and “taking it on the chin” (as Johnson said). Their touted notion of creating ‘herd immunity’ was widely condemned and, on Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was not their policy (at least, not publicly anyway!)

However, there has only been limited testing and contact tracing in the UK. It is reported today that experts have been warning the government that there needs to be a massive increase in testing and it seems the government is about to increase testing from approx. 5,000 per day to up to 25,000 per day. This is greatly to be welcomed.

But I think these questions need to be asked:

– Why has the government been slow to implement wide scale testing and contact tracing?

– Why was it policy and advice for people with virus symptoms to go home, not let anyone know and not be tested?!

– Why was/is contact tracing therefore not possible/happening in relation to these cases?

And again…..

– Why has the UK not been following WHO advice and the prevailing international evidence?!

Tom Lane

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