Germany laboratories are conducting thousands of coronavirus tests a day, according to new data. Germany has led the way in Europe with large-scale testing of its population for the virus, which is one of the reasons the country’s COVID-19 mortality rate is lower than in other countries. So why is the UK not testing for coronavirus like Germany?
Germany has reported 79,999 cases of coronavirus making it the country with the fifth-highest number of infections globally.
The UK meanwhile has 33,718 confirmed cases, making it the eighth highest number of cases.
Experts have said mass testing is key to lifting the lockdown.
In the UK, just 2,000 NHS staffers who are self-isolating now have been tested so far.
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How much testing is being done in Germany?
Germany is undertaking more than 50,000 coronavirus tests each day according to recent data.
The Robert Koch Institute, which is coordinating Germany’s public health response to the pandemic, said the total number of tests conducted since the start of the crisis had reached at least 918,460.
Antigen tests are being conducted on people showing even mild symptoms, as long as they are referred by a doctor.
Many have said Germany’s relatively low rate of deaths so far is due to the high number of tests being conducted.
How much testing is being done in the UK and other countries?
In the UK about 8,000 people are being tested every day.
In total, since the start of the outbreak 152,979 people have been tested, with 29,474 testing positive.
South Korea has tested about 490,000 people since the start of the outbreak.
Both countries have far fewer deaths than the UK.
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Why is the UK no testing for coronavirus like Germany?
Testing for viruses is not a simple process.
Testing for coronavirus requires specific equipment and conditions.
Professor of global health and sustainable development at University College London Anthony Costello said one of the reasons for the lack of mass testing in the UK is in part because of Public Health England.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have 44 molecular virology labs in the UK.
“If they were doing 400 tests a day, we would be up to Germany levels of testing and that is perfectly feasible.
“Public Health England were slow and controlled and only allowed non-PHE labs to start testing two weeks ago, but that was after the strategy to shift to end community tests.”
What tests are actually needed?
There are two main tests needed to get a hold on the coronavirus pandemic.
The first is the antigen test which detects the presence of the virus.
Samples are taken using a swab, using a large cotton bud up your nose, to take samples from the back of the throat.
The second detects the presence of antibodies which is referred to as the antibody test.
These are used to find out if someone has had the virus at all.
Shortly the antibody test will be available to conduct at home, purchased through Boots or Amazon.
Typically antibody tests are done with a spot of blood and do not become positive for a week or so after the beginning of the illness.
Importantly, the antigen test can show whether someone may be infectious to others, so it can be used to screen essential workers who may have only mild coronavirus symptoms, or who are asymptomatic.
Why is testing so important?
Antibody tests show if you have been exposed to the virus previously and therefore have some resistance to catching it again.
If we knew who the people were that had had the virus, a strategy for lockdown exit could be devised as they could return to work safely.
Knowing who has had the virus is important for tracing and containing the disease.
Coronavirus will likely impact the UK for several months and therefore pinpointing hotspots for the virus.
It is not yet known if antibodies remain in your blood or exactly how effective they are in stopping you becoming reinfected.
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