The way to getting society back 'out there' is routine mass testing, says Oxfordshire CEO

Gordon Sanghera is from Oxford Nanopore Technologies - the firm behind the new 90 minute coronavirus tests.

Mass testing the public for Covid-19 could lead to the rest of society being able to reopen – including sports grounds and theatres, one expert has said.

Gordon Sanghera, chief executive of Oxford Nanopore Technologies at the Oxford Science Park, said that mass testing could lead to the introduction of health passports which would allow people who test negative for Covid-19 “access all areas”.

Introducing tests for everyone once or twice a week would mean that people who have the virus but who are not yet showing symptoms could be “taken out of society and quarantined to minimise infection”, he said.

Oxford Nanopore Technologies is one of two companies which has introduced a rapid test which promises results within 90 minutes.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced that two tests which can detect coronavirus and flu are to be rolled out in hospitals, care homes and laboratories.

The swab and DNA tests will help deal with the virus in winter, enabling clinicians and NHS Test and Trace to differentiate between Covid-19, which requires sufferers to undergo specific self-isolation, and other seasonal illnesses, the Department of Health said.

It announced plans for millions of tests – LamPORE swab tests by Oxford Nanopore and DnaNudge DNA test machines – to be rolled out across health and care settings.

But experts behind the tests said that there are far reaching implications for the innovations – such as the possibility of reopening sporting grounds or live music events.

Mr Sanghera said the way to getting society back “out there” was routine mass testing.

He told the PA news agency: “The way to get everybody back to work, back to school, back to university, back to bars and restaurants, back to the theatre, back to your favourite sports, is to have routine mass testing; find people. Then asymptomatic people can be taken out of society and quarantine to minimise infection. Whilst all being back out there.”

He said Covid-19 will be around for some time, but added: “The innovation we’re bringing to the table today, and others (will help create) capability to be able to do mass routine testing week in, week out for everybody.

“And that will allow us to open up bars, restaurants, football grounds, rugby, sport, theatres, everything.

“All of that can come back and it wouldn’t be that difficult to have a health passport where you test once a week. And if you’re actively tested and negative. You’ve, you know, access all areas if you like.”

The Oxford company is going to start routinely testing all employees next week so they drop a saliva sample first thing in the morning to a test centre with results back by lunch.

The tests will be available commercially in the next two to three weeks and will cost around £20 to £40 each.

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