'Moonshot' tests that will get UK back to normal still don't work, admits Grant Schapps

'MOONSHOT' coronavirus tests that will get the UK back to normal don't work, Grant Shapps admitted this morning.

Boris Johnson unveiled his plan last night to get Britain back to normal by testing the entire population every week with rapid-result tests but the Transport Secretary admitted they were still only "prototypes".


Mr Shapps told Sky News: "We want to do what we want do what we're calling a moonshot. In other words we know it's difficult.

"We know this isn't simple to achieve, but we hope it will be possible through technology and new tests to have a test which works by not having to return the sample to a lab."

He said the Government was hoping to develop a test that provided a result in between 20 minutes and 90 minutes.

Under the plan, Brits would swab themselves in the morning and be given a 24-hour pass to mingle without having to stick to social distancing rules.

A person could prove they had tested negative by either electronically presenting their result, or showing a printed card.

The programme is expected to cost the Treasury a whopping £100billion.

"This is technology that, to be perfectly blunt, requires further development – there isn't a certified test in the world that does this but there are people that are working on prototypes," he said.

Mr Johnson said last night mass testing was being piloted in Salford, as he talked up the Government's new strategy to test the nation

He said a negative result would give Brits a “freedom pass” — allowing people to mingle like they did before Covid.

It was also revealed yesterday:

  • Groups of more than six will be banned from Monday – and anyone who disobeys faced a £100 minimum fine
  • Pub-goers and diners will be FORCED to hand over their details when they go out as part of a ramping up of track and trace
  • A new army of health and safety inspectors will be rolled out by local authorities to crack down on places not enforcing safety rules
  • Britain's borders will be beefed up with fresh plans to force airlines into making sure everyone fills out new passenger forms – leaving officials more time to check people are in quarantine
  • Stadium pilots will be reviewed and any that go ahead will be limited to 1000 only – putting the return of live sport in doubt
  • Night-time curfews for businesses could be slapped on other areas of the country in future

The tests would use saliva rather than a swab, which has to up the nose and to the back of the throat.

The PM said: “Through that Moonshot of daily testing – everybody gets a rapid turn-around test in the morning, 15 minutes later you know whether you are infectious or not.”

He added: “Work is underway — and we will get on at pace until we get there, round the clock. We are hopeful this approach will be widespread by the spring.”



But the Government's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty dampened the PM's hopeful mass testing mission, saying there were still "constraints" in the system.

He said: "Those constraints are not just going to magically disappear, and the demand on testing has increased.

He added: "It's critical that those who do need to be tested, and in particular people with symptoms or people who have been told to for a variety of reasons, social care working for example, get tested.

"But it is also important that people who really don't have a clear clinical indication currently don't (get tested) because we do still have constraints."

Professor David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, warned that while mass screening "always seems like a good idea" it poses a huge risk of 600,000 people getting a false positive result a day.

Sir David said: "If you have a test that will allow them to be in a theatre, you have to be really sure they are not infectious.

"It means such a tests will generate a huge number of large positives.
It's not just a matter of testing. they will be told to isolate and so on.

"If you only have 1% false positives and you’re testing the whole country, that’s 600,000."

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