NHS Test and Trace was launched less than four months ago to help stop the spread of the virus, provide free testing for those who need it, and to find outbreaks before they take hold. That is still our purpose today.
Since we began, we have been busy delivering the service, planning for schools to go back and for more testing as the economy opened up.
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On August 1 we processed just over 145,000 tests and on September 17 this increased to over 230,000 tests a day.
Of course, we were planning for an increased need for testing and we have delivered a step up. But we have seen an even bigger demand for tests and clearly, we need to do more.
I understand why all of us would want to believe that a negative test will set us free. But the way the disease works means that just isn’t true.
Testing is only effective if you have symptoms, or unless you have been asked to get tested by NHS Test and Trace or by a health professional.
If you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive then you have to self-isolate. A negative test result won’t change that.
This is because the virus could still be developing. A test can come back negative during this time even if you have caught coronavirus — and you could still go on to infect other people.
That’s why self-isolation is so important, to stop the spread of the disease.
I am working around the clock to make sure our testing system gets bigger and better.
We know there are improvements to be made and we are working tirelessly to put these in place.
We are close to doubling our testing capacity since NHS Test and Trace began and will meet our target of 500,000 tests a day by the end of October. And then go even further.
But we can’t do this alone. Testing is our second line of defence. The first thing is to help stop the virus spreading in the first place.
That’s why following hands, face, space is the most important thing we can all do. And if you do develop symptoms we must make sure you can get a test.
So please if you don’t have symptoms, don’t book a test. We need to protect the tests for those who need them most.
We have to protect tests for our NHS patients, staff, our care homes, our schools and anyone with symptoms.
If we can do that, then whilst coronavirus may not be gone by the winter, I know that together we can meet the challenge head on.
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