The Government faces increasing pressure to boost the rate of Covid-19 testing as the UK far lags behind other countries like Germany, South Korea and Australia.
Currently about 8,000 tests a day are being carried out, and the Government has admitted only 2,000 of the half a million NHS staff on the frontline have so far been tested.
Mr Hancock said he used a virtual meeting with suppliers on Wednesday to launch a new challenge for industry to develop innovative solutions to overcome some of the main obstacles to scaling up capacity.
The Health Secretary, who has tested positive for the virus, said: “Testing is a crucial aspect of our coronavirus battleplan, and we are working day and night to increase our national testing capacity.
“I’m determined we must rise to this challenge as a country.”
“So I’ve called together our pharmaceutical giants and testing specialists to call on them to build a scale of diagnostic capability never before seen in this country.
“It is a huge task but they know they have the have the full support of this Government as we work towards this common goal in the national interest, as part of our national effort to tackle coronavirus.
“Many companies are already working urgently to assist us in this and I’m delighted that so many more are looking to step up to this challenge.”
The focus was on delivering national virus and immunity tests at scale, to help key workers and those in the community to know if they have or have had the virus, according to the Health Department.
Boris Johnson earlier shared a video message from self-isolation to say the UK will “unlock the coronavirus puzzle” thanks to “ramped up testing.”
The Prime Minister filmed the update from Number 10, where he has spent the past five days in self-isolation after contracting Covid-19.
Addressing the public, Mr Johnson said Wednesday had been a “sad, sad day” after the UK’s virus death toll jumped by 563.
“Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims and all their friends,” he said, acknowledging that it had been the country’s biggest daily surge in fatalities so far.
But he continued: “Let us be in no doubt that if we can follow the programme that we are currently set upon – if we can comply with the measures that we’ve embarked on together – then I have absolutely no doubt that we will begin to push those numbers down.
“And we will turn the tide of coronavirus in the next few weeks and months.”
He went on to detail how the Government is “looking after our amazing NHS staff” – including by shipping 397 million pieces of personal protective equipment over the past two weeks.
And he stressed that “ramped up testing” remains the key to “unlocking the coronavirus puzzle.”
“This is how we will defeat it in the end,” he said.
“Of course, it’s crucial that people who to have the disease are able to be tested positive and to take the necessary steps to isolate at home in the way that I’m doing and that many many others are doing as well,” he added.
Mr Johnson ended his message on a note of optimism, saying: “Although I’m sequestered here in Number 10 Downing Street I am, thanks to the miracles of modern technology able to be in constant touch with my officials – with everybody in the various departments across the whole of Whitehall who is coordinating the response to coronavirus.
“And I’m absolutely confident that we will beat it, and we will beat it together, and we will do it by staying at home, protecting our NHS and saving lives.”
Source: Evening Standard UK