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British doctors beg government to test them for coronavirus

british british doctor coronavirus test

(Press association via AP Images

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British doctors are pleading with the government to prioritize testing for COVID-19, saying a lack of testing leaves them, their families and patients at risk of potential infection.

Since last week, British health authorities have focused testing on people admitted to hospitals with suspicious symptoms, or to residential care facilities like nursing homes where there was a suspected outbreak.

Doctors and other medical workers have complained about not being tested themselves, even when they have possible symptoms and despite being on the front line of the outbreak. They fear unintentionally exposing others to the virus.

The situation prompted a young doctor, Rebecca McCauley, to launch a online petition calling on the government to provide testing to frontline health workers. So far it has obtained over 860,000 signatures.

In the petition, McCauley – who said she had a minor cough – described the dangerous dilemma that health workers face when they developed possible symptoms of COVID-19.

“Do I stay on sick leave for 7 days, leaving a shortage of staff and putting more pressure on the already tense [healthcare system], “she wrote.” Or am I going to work with my minor cough (as I normally would) and risk spreading COVID-19 to all the sickest patients I see on a daily basis? “

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A doctor, a consultant cardiologist at a London hospital, said the Guardian he suspected he had COVID-19, but to be tested he had to pay for his own test kit at a private UK clinic and had another sent by a colleague in China.

“The [government] the policy is that I don’t need to be tested and even people who have been in contact with me will not be tested, ”said Mark Gallagher, calling the government’s position a“ policy of surrender ”.

“They are abandoning the basics of dealing with an outbreak, which is to test whenever possible, trace contacts and contain,” he said. “Almost every doctor I know thinks what they are doing is wrong. “

the outcry of physicians led the National Health Service to admit he doesn’t test enough staff, and call on health bureaucrats to establish a testing system for “targeted staff” and provide more kits “urgently”.

But, said McCauley, “this is more of a request than an announcement,” and it was not clear who would have access to these kits. When she asked health officials for a test on Tuesday, she said: “It was made clear that the tests were still not done and that I would only have to isolate myself.”

Government chief medical officer Chris Whitty said health officials are still ramping up their capacity to be able to test health workers.

READ: Coronavirus has hospitals in northern Italy on the brink of collapse

Health experts have criticized the pace of testing in Britain in general, and the government has pledged to step up efforts. The World Health Organization’s advice was to “test every suspected case”, but Britain only performed 56,221 tests on Wednesday. South Korea, on the other hand, performs 10,000 tests per day.

Testing in the UK has so far confirmed 2,626 cases of COVID-19, although Whitty told a government committee on Tuesday that, based on the death toll projections so far, the actual number of UK cases could reach 55,000. Health officials said on Wednesday the death toll had risen to 104.

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The Doctors For The NHS campaign group said a lot more testing needed to be done.

“There is no mass test for COVID-19,” said Colin Hutchinson, group chairman. “How can you manage an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic without having access to clear and up-to-date information on the number of new cases in the population? “

Editor’s Note 03/18/12:00 ET: This article has been updated to include new numbers.

Cover: Coronavirus. Lab technicians handle suspected COVID-19 samples as they perform a diagnostic test for the coronavirus in the microbiology laboratory at the Specialist Virology Center at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. (Press association via AP Images)

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