Everyone aged over five with symptoms eligible for coronavirus testing, Matt Hancock says

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  • May 18, 2020
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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that everyone over the age of five who is showing coronavirus symptoms is now eligible for a coronavirus test in the UK.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Mr Hancock said the Government was “expanding eligibility for testing further than ever before” after 100,678 were carried out a day earlier.

“Every day we are creating more capacity and that means more people can be tested, and the virus has fewer places to hide,” he added.

“Today, I can announce to the House that everyone aged five and over with symptoms is now eligible for a test.

“That applies right across the UK in all four nations from now.”

Tests have until now been limited to people with symptoms who are key workers, hospital patients, care home residents and those aged over-65 in England and Scotland.

Meanwhile, in Wales and Northern Ireland, only key workers and care home residents were eligible to be tested.

Responding to questioning in the House of Commons from shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth, Mr Hancock added that the median time for receiving test results was currently “under 48 hours”.

In other key developments:

  • Mr Hancock said that more than 21,000 contact tracers have been recruited in England to help manually trace the contacts of anyone who has had a positive Covid-19 test.
  • The intake includes 7,500 health care professionals who will provide call handlers with expert clinical advice, he added.
  • The Health Secretary said the Government is in the “closing stages” of negotiations to purchase new Covid-19 antibody tests developed by Swedish pharmaceutical company Roche.

Mr Hancock’s announcement came after the Government added loss of taste or smell to the list of Covid-19 symptoms.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam announced that the official “basic case definition” for Covid-19 will from today be a new continuous cough, or fever, or anosmia (a loss or changed sense of normal smell or taste).

Loss of smell and taste added to official coronavirus symptoms

Commenting on the move, the Health Secretary said people who are experiencing a loss or change in their sense of smell, even without displaying other coronavirus symptoms, should self-isolate for seven days.

“Throughout this pandemic we’ve said that if you develop a new continuous cough or a fever, then you should immediately self-isolate,” Mr Hancock added.

“From today we are including anosmia, which means that if you have lost your sense of smell or are experiencing a change in your normal sense of smell or taste, that can be a symptom of coronavirus, even where the other symptoms are not present.

“So, from today, if you develop a continuous cough, or fever or anosmia you should immediately self-isolate for at least seven days in line with the guidelines. Members of your household should self-isolate for 14 days.”