Health secretary Matt Hancock led the government press conference today for the first time since going into self-isolation.
He explained the challenges that had faced the NHS on testing, but noted that the rollout of the test was the quickest the UK had seen for novel illness in history. He then set out the plan to "boost testing", saying that he would expand testing for NHS staff and then furthermore to the community. This included a "national effort for testing" that would see the development of a diagnostics industry.
He set out "five pillars" of his testing strategy:
- Swab testing in Public Health England labs
- Creation of brand-new swab testing capacity by commercial partners -- including pharmaceutical companies and universities
- Blood (antibody) tests to prove immunity
- Population surveillance to understand proportionate infection rates
- Developing a world-class diagnostics industry
Mr Hancock also announced new guidance for health and social care organisations, and said he would "stop at nothing" to ensure workers had the equipment.
He also announced that £300 million would be made available for community pharmacies, and that £13.4 billion in debt would be written off for NHS Trusts.
He said that more than 700,000 volunteers had stopped forward to support the NHS, and stated that was "Britain at its best".
In other news, the FCA has advised that repayments on loans and credit cards -- as well as interest on existing overdrafts -- should be frozen to support people struggling financially because of Covid-19.
There have now been 2,921 deaths in the UK, with more than 33,000 confirmed cases of the virus.
Italy remains the nation with the highest death toll -- almost 14,000 -- but its new infection rate has remained under 4,700 for the fourth day in a row.
Deaths in Spain, the country with the second-highest death toll, have passed 10,000.
In the United States, a new unemployment claims record has been set, with more than 6.6 million Americans claiming unemployment benefits in the week ending March 28th.
The Democratic party convention has also been delayed by more than a month to August thanks to the pandemic.
The next Leaders Council update will follow tomorrow morning.