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Testing is key to beating COVID-19

The sad truth is that the UK was strategically poorly prepared for COVID-19. We seem to have learnt very few lessons from previous virus pandemics. South Korea learnt those lessons, and they also followed the WHO advice to "test, test, test."

We are not alone in acting too little too late.  Most European countries and also the USA appear equally ill-prepared.  Our strategies are led more by panic than clear thinking.   To fight a virus such as COVID-19 preparedness matters.  To save lives, we have to be ahead of the curve.  Most authorities are behind it.



We seem to be at that point in a game, when the enemy is coming so fast that we really can't keep up with it and so we shoot, shoot, and shoot, only to find we have run out of ammunition.  The lesson is that we need the resources if a strategy is to work. A plan without resources just isn't worth the paper it is written on.

Logistics matters.  We should not have frontline medical staff crying out for the kit they need to protect themselves.  Logistics must be a crucial part of preparedness.

Consistency matter.  While it is right, the response must be adaptable to a particular virus, the inconsistency of message and purpose is damaging.  

But let us not despair.  It is late, but we can still put in place a more joined-up strategy.  

We need to get ahead of the curve, rather than simply respond to it.  Social isolation will flatten the curve, but that will be to little avail if we cannot then test for its effectiveness.  We need to check for immunity.  

The government/authorities in the UK appear not to have understood that getting ahead of the curve meant the population had to be targetted.    That, after all, is the main hunting ground of the virus.  

All effort must be put into testing the public so we know who might have gained immunity.  With that, we can more easily maintain critical social infrastructure by tracking key workers. Keeping the frontline safe must be a priority.

The Archbishop of York,  I think made a good point on BBC Question Time, when he advised the government to "promise less, and deliver more."

We should no longer hear statements promising kit in "two to three days", or "by the weekend".  The government needs to be honest in ist appraisal.  Promising what cannot be delivered will destroy trust.

We need now to think through the next stage: how we bring people out of lockdown.  That can only be acheived with testing for immunity.  But that may be a more difficult task given the problems with the testing kits.  Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, tells us that so many of them are found to give false positives.  That would be a disaster if rolled out.

The Health Secretary also says that production in the UK isn't as easy as in, say, Germany, because, while we have top scientific expertise in diagnostics, our pharmaceutical industry is not geared to diagnostics.

Surely, with the expertise and with cooperation from the pharmaceutical industries, this could be changed.  It needs to because testing for immunity must be the key priority.








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