Britain health officials said Wednesday they plan to begin mass, population-wide testing for COVID-19 to curb the spread of the virus in one the worst hit countries in the world.
In an interview with the BBC, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government would expand a testing study from the current 28,000 people to 150,000 by October, and ultimately to 400,000, to help establish a better national picture of the pandemic and spot local outbreaks.
Hancock said they were expanding testing “essentially by almost 10 times so that we get more detailed information about where the virus is taking root, about whether that's men or women, about which parts of the country, so that we can better manage, in a more targeted way, the measures that we need to take to tackle the virus."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has been heavily criticized for its handling of the pandemic, with critics saying it was too slow to go into lockdown and too slow to roll out testing to know how far the virus had spread.
It now has the highest death toll in Europe and the deepest economic contraction of a major advanced economy.
The government also says that research laboratories at Porton Down, a science park in Wiltshire, were carrying out trials on new saliva tests that do not need to go to a laboratory, allowing for faster delivery of results.
Johnson's government has been criticized during the pandemic for promising new safeguards, such as the arrival of protective clothing for health workers or a comprehensive track and trace system, which then take much longer to arrive.
Cases in Britain have been rising again in recent weeks with more than 1,000 positive results on eight of the last 10 days.