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Government told to speed up testing and tracing

The government must speed up its testing and tracing efforts to offer a way out of lockdown as hospital admissions decrease, one of the most senior scientists studying the virus said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, told Today on Radio 4: “Decisions need to be accelerated and real progress made.” He said that co-ordination between government departments needed to be improved.

Professor Ferguson echoed the message from Wednesday’s (15/4) press conference that new admissions to hospital have been declining for a week, in a sign that we may have passed the peak of the virus.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said Britain is reaching the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and will be able to finalise its strategy for easing the lockdown within ten days.

He said health officials believed that the trend in new infections was beginning to “flatten out” as the death toll stayed below 800 for the fourth day in a row.

Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, who is deputising for the prime minister while he recovers, is expected to announce today that lockdown restrictions will remain in place for a further three weeks. After chairing a cabinet conference call and a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee he will say that it is too early to lift them.

On Thursday morning Matt Hancock, the health secretary, offered a strident defence of the government’s response, sounding harried at times. He said Professor Ferguson was “advising the government, he’s not in the government” and repeated the message that speculation about the end of lockdown could undermine official advice.