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Adam Smith Inst - Testing times in this coronavirus crisis

A new report by the Adam Smith Institutes argues that if the UK had followed the USA's CDC in allowing private lab testing, and stopped confirmatory testing at a single site (Colindale) then we could have ramped up testing to the same per capita level as those three countries have done.

South Korea has tested four times as many people as the UK, Germany almost three times and the United States now almost twice as many, per capita. 

The UK is now in the bottom quarter of OECD countries for COVID-19 diagnosis testing.Since 16 March, the United Kingdom has just over doubled daily testing capacity. In the same time period, the United States has increased daily testing by a factor of 21.

The free market think tank argues that the UK is failing to make use of the over 600 accredited medical laboratories in the kingdom, of which 474 are NHS, 120 are private, and 12 are PHE and Public Health Wales. As well as the dozens of University labs that are suitable for testing. 

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reiterates his call for a more co-ordinated and sped up approach, saying:

"A mass community testing plan is challenging but not impossible if we mobilise in the way we have to produce ventilators. That means tapping into every laboratory, every pharmaceutical company and every university in the country without delay."

The Adam Smith Institute believes that the UK Government can meet its testing targets and save lives, if it is able to:

  1. Fast-track approval for private sector laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing;

  2. Substantially expand usage of NHS and university laboratories to conduct COVID-19 testing;

  3. Undertake rapid approval of private sector developed tests, including mutual recognition of tests approved by other regulatory bodies such as the FDA; 

  4. Reduce testing red tape, including the requirement that all initial tests must be retested centrally by PHE; and

  5. Explicitly call on companies to help make testing kits and develop lab capacity for COVID-19 testing, modelled on the successful call for businesses to make ventilators.

For further comment, or to arrange an interview with report author Matthew Lesh, please contact Matt Kilcoyne via email ( or mobile (07904099599).

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