Most people arriving in UK won't be checked for coronavirus, government says

Ellie Durrant (left), Alice Nuttall, 21 (2nd left) John Nuttall, 56 (2nd right) from Nantwich leave the terminal as passengers that travelled on a repatriation flight from Peru arrive at Gatwick Airport in Sussex as the government continues to help tens of thousands of Britons that remain stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)
Passengers entering the UK will only be checked for coronavirus if they show symptoms. (Getty Images)

People entering the UK will not be checked for coronavirus unless they show symptoms, the housing secretary has confirmed.

Tory MP Robert Jenrick said passengers who landed at airports would be taken down “one route” if they were symptomatic, but others would be “allowed to enter the country”.

Jenrick told ITV’s Good Morning Britain the UK was taking a “different approach” from other countries, after taking advice from medical experts.

“A lot of the tests that you could do in airports, like testing someone’s temperature for example, are not necessarily helpful or accurate ways of assessing whether someone has coronavirus,” he said.

In this handout photo provided by 10 Downing Street, Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick answering questions from the media via a video link during a media briefing on coronavirus, at 10 Downing Street in London, Sunday, March 29, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street via AP)
Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary. (AP)

“We have been guided in our approach at airports, as elsewhere, by scientific and medical opinion and I appreciate that some other countries have taken different approaches there.”

The government is coming under increasing pressure over COVID-19 testing as the UK experienced its biggest day-on-day rise in deaths so far.

As of 5pm on Tuesday, 2,352 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for the virus, the Department of Health said, up by 563 from 1,789 the day before.

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Meanwhile, Downing Street said more than 2,000 NHS staff have been tested for coronavirus, amid intense scrutiny over the government’s policy on testing.

Only around 8,000 tests per day are currently being carried out in the UK, even though ministers previously claimed a target of 10,000 tests per day had been hit.

At present, the focus has been on testing patients in hospital to see if they have coronavirus, with NHS trusts told earlier in the week they should use up to 15% of any spare testing capacity for NHS staff.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has now scrapped that cap, telling NHS hospital labs to use all spare capacity to test their frontline workers.

The government has blamed a global lack of reagents needed to carry out tests, though the chemical industry in the UK suggested there were no shortages.

Jenrick told Radio 4’s Today programme testing capacity should hit 15,000 in the next few days.

The minister said he expects there to be 25,000 tests per day by the “middle of April”.

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