UPDATE 1-Britain to fund expansion of rapid COVID-19 test trials

LONDON, Sept 3- Britain on Thursday said it was investing to develop rapid COVID-19 tests, with a view to soon rolling out widespread, systematic testing to pick up outbreaks early, amid criticism over backlogs in its current testing system. You can’t do that on the current technology very easily, “he told BBC television. The funding will be used to expand existing…

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Britain on Thursday said it was

investing to develop rapid COVID-19 tests, with a view to soon

rolling out widespread, systematic testing to pick up outbreaks

early, amid criticism over backlogs in its current testing

system.

The health ministry said it would put 500 million pounds($666 million) into trials of rapid COVID-19 tests and intopopulation-testing for the disease.

Health minister Matt Hancock has said he hopes mass testingusing faster COVID-19 tests can be rolled out towards the end ofthe year, adding that they are key to restoring freedoms aftermonths of COVID-19 restrictions.

“I want to solve the problem by having the next generationtests at a radically bigger scale. You can’t do that on thecurrent technology very easily,” he told BBC television.

Asked when it would be available for everyone, he said:”Over the coming weeks and months ahead. We’re starting the rollout today.”

The funding will be used to expand existing trials of salivatests and a rapid 20-minute test in southern England, while anew, community trial in Salford, northwest England, will assessthe benefit of population-testing, under which people areregularly tested regardless of whether they have symptoms, sothat any cases can be picked up before they have spread widely.

Currently, official health service advice is only forcitizens to get a COVID-19 test if they have symptoms, althoughmore regular testing is available for certain professions, suchas care workers.

However, the government has come into criticism after somewho tried to book tests were reportedly told to travel manymiles as capacity is directed where the need is greatest.

“The time was right to think about scaling up testing to thewider community and asymptomatic testing over the summer when wewere relatively COVID-secure,” Alan McNally, Professor ofMicrobial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham,told BBC radio.

“Ideally we would be far more advanced in our ability tohandle, what we’re already beginning to see, an increase inrequirement for COVID testing.”(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Kate Holton and WilliamSchomberg; editing by Stephen Addison and James Davey)

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