THE Government's top scientist has warned that up to 10,000 people in the UK could already be infected with coronavirus.
Ten people have so far died in the UK after being infected with Covid-19, and 600 have been diagnosed with the new bug. So what's the latest advice on testing for the virus?
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How to get tested for coronavirus in the UK
As of last night, there has been a major shift in the way potential Covid-19 sufferers are treated.
Following an emergency Cobra meeting, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that testing of mild cases will end.
Until now, people were referred to test centres after phoning NHS 111.
Those suspected of carrying the disease were advised to drive to a special testing site, or a hospital car park, where a nurse wearing protective gear would conduct the test in assessment pods.
The NHS was also testing people at home for the virus to help contain the spread.
But the government has changed its stance, and widespread testing will no longer be applicable.
The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty confirmed after the Cobra meeting that the NHS will alter its approach to testing for coronavirus, with only those at hospitals to be formally examined.
Testing in hospitals will be carried out on patients suffering from respiratory problems – and this will probably be extended to other conditions.
Prof Whitty said: "It is no longer necessary for us to identify every case.
"We will move from having testing mainly done in homes and outpatients and walk-in centres, to a situation where people who are remaining at home do not need testing."
Potential coronavirus sufferers experiencing mild symptoms are also being advised to us the NHS 111 online service.
People have been advised against phoning the NHS 111 helpline unless their health begins to deteriorate, as the service is struggling to cope with demand.
Why is coronavirus testing decreasing?
The Times says that "public health is giving up on tracing every case".
And those suffering "mild symptoms", such as a high temperature of 37.8C and above, or a new continuous cough, are being told to self-isolate for seven days rather than ask to be tested.
That's regardless of whether they have travelled to infected areas, such as Italy, Iran or China.
An NHS spokesman told the Sun Online that people can still check their symptoms online, and "if they're otherwise fine, they don't need to go to hospital or be tested".
He said it's not known as yet what will happen to the special testing sites, "but people don't just go to them anyway, they would have to be referred first".
Prof Whitty said there was now no way of stopping the coronavirus from spreading in the UK.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 people in the UK are thought to be infected with Covid-19 already – most of whom remain undiagnosed.
Mr Johnson said on Thursday: "We've all got to be clear: this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.
"It is going to spread further and I must level with you, I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."
Prof Whitty said the peak of the outbreak was most likely to hit the UK in ten-to-14 weeks.
More stringent measures, such as school closures, haven't been brought in as it's feared people would become "fatigued" if they were introduced too soon and would lose their maximum effect.
What is the coronavirus test?
Testing for coronavirus looks for signs of infection in blood, other bodily fluids or secretions.
There are a number of ways the virus can be tested.
- Blood – this involves the collection of a blood sample from a blood vessel in your arm.
- Nasal – this is when a saline is inserted into the nose and removed with gentle suction.
- Sputum – this involves the patient coughing up mucus from the lungs into a cup or a swab used to take mucus from the nose.
- Tracheal aspirate – this requires a thin lighted tube inserted into the mouth and down the lungs, where a sample will be collected.
Testing for the virus comes with some minor side effects, including tingling and slight discomfort. These however, are temporary.
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