After months lost, Britain promises to catch up on virus tests

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But there are also many signs in the British health system. Paul Cosford, medical director emeritus of Public Health England, told the BBC on Thursday that it was the job of another organization, the Office of Life Sciences, to attract other organizations, charities and the private sector.

As the political heat intensified, so did the confusion. On Wednesday, as Johnson aired his video from isolation, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam told ITV that the tests were a "minor problem,quot; in reducing deaths. Her argument was echoed by a government health minister, Nadine Dorries, who recovered after being infected with the virus.

"The test is not a cure, it will not reduce the number of deaths, it will not make people feel better or it will prevent them from contracting #coronavirus, it will only tell you whether or not you have had it," he wrote on Twitter. She called it "media hype," adding: "There is still no treatment, no cure, no vaccine, and no amount of evidence will alter that fact."

Medical experts regretted the mixed messages from health officials.

They said Britain would need to run more tests and keep track of contacts of those who may have been exposed to the virus and, if necessary, isolate them. They noted that people would likely have to undergo repeated tests to make sure they are free of infection. Otherwise, the country will face another wave of contagion.

"We need to have a longer-term strategy," said Dr. Sridhar. "We are late, but there is no other way out."

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