Mass Covid testing dubbed Operation Moonshot to be trialled in days, Boris Johnson reveals

MASS coronavirus testing dubbed Operation Moonshot will be trialled in the coming days, Boris Johnson has revealed.

The Prime Minister told MPs today that the army has been drafted in to help expand the rapid testing programme.

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He also said he believes Covid-19 can be defeated by the spring as he highlighted better treatments and the prospect of a vaccine.

Speaking the Commons, Mr Johnson told MPs that while scientists are "bleak" in their short-term predictions, they remain "unanimously optimistic about the medium and the long-term".

"If the House asks me what is the exit strategy, what is the way out – let me be as clear as I can: the way out is to get the R down now to beat this autumn surge and to use this moment to exploit the medical and technical advances we're making to keep it low," he said.

"We now have not only the much better medication, the prospect of a vaccine and we have the immediate prospect of many millions of cheap, reliable and rapid turnaround tests with a result in minutes.

"Trials have already shown we can suppress the disease in hospitals, schools and universities by testing large numbers of NHS workers, children and teachers and students.

"These tests crucially identify people who are infectious but who do not have symptoms, allowing them to immediately self-isolate and stop the spread of the disease and allowing those who are not infectious to continue as normal.

What is Operation Moonshot?

OPERATION Moonshot is the name of the Government's newly proposed Covid-19 mass testing scheme.

Moonshot testing promises to deliver coronavirus test results in just 15 minutes.

It would take the form of mass at-home testing and could see up to 10 million tests carried out every day from the comfort of people's own homes.

The test would not need to be processed in a lab to be developed, so that users get their results in a matter of minutes rather than days.

Similar to a pregnancy test, the saliva test would eliminate the need for people to travel – sometimes long distances – to testing centres before returning home to wait for the result.

The aim of the tests is to start fully reopening society and getting the economy up and running even before a Covid vaccine has been developed.

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 tests are reportedly due to be trialled in the Covid hotspot of Salford from this month.

However it comes with a steep price tag almost as much as NHS England's £114billion budget in 2018/19.

The Moonshot proposals come as the current testing programme faces considerable criticism for struggling to meet demand

"This means that unlike the spring it’s possible to keep these institutions open and still stop the spread of the disease.

"So over the next few days and weeks we plan a steady but massive expansion of these quick turnaround tests which we will be manufacturing in this country, applying them in an ever growing number of situations.

"From helping women have their partners with them when they are giving birth, to testing whole towns and cities.

"The army has been brought into work on the logistics of the programme which will begin in a matter of days."


Mr Johnson also flagged dexamethasone as a treatment, adding: "We have the real prospect of a vaccine in the first quarter of next year."

He went on: "I believe these technical developments taken together will enable us to defeat the virus by the spring, as humanity has defeated every other infectious disease and I'm not alone in this optimism.

"But I cannot pretend the way ahead is easy without painful choices for us all, and so for the next four weeks I must again ask the people of this country to come together, to protect the NHS and to save many thousands of lives." 

Mr Johnson also reassured the House that the country will not be returning to the full-scale lockdown seen in March and April.

"Let me stress that these restrictions are time-limited," he said.

"After four weeks on Wednesday 2nd December they will expire and we intend to return to a tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends and the House will have a vote to agree the way forward."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister and Chancellor had "failed to learn" lessons from the first wave of the pandemic.


He told the Commons: "The central lesson from the first wave of this virus was that if you don't act early and decisively the cost will be far worse, more people will lose their jobs, more businesses will be forced to close and tragically more people will lose their loved ones.

"The Prime Minister and the Chancellor failed to learn this lesson.

"As a result, this lockdown will be longer than it needed to be, at least four weeks, it will be harder – we've just missed half-term – and the human cost will be higher."


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