The COVID-19 pandemic continues its rampage across the world as countries struggle to contain the upsurge of new infections. Unlike a few months ago, the availability of more testing kits now allows healthcare systems to properly identify patients whose symptoms are caused by the SARS-COV-2 virus instead of common influenza. This makes it easier for governments to properly monitor the trends to see if the contingency measures that are in place are effective. However, it appears that among the millions of testing kits available in the UK, most are purportedly defective.

This poses a big problem for health professionals who rely on mass testing to correctly segregate those that need COVID-19 treatment. The increasing influx of patients showing flu-like symptoms is evidently overwhelming medical facilities who are now experiencing shortages in manpower, personal protective equipment, and other essential supplies.

The British government initially had plans to perform mass testing to determine which individuals were infected and already recovered. The data collected would help officials and experts plan the best course of action. World economies are now at a standstill due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and being able to work and resume business operations can make a difference.

Unfortunately, after preliminary evaluations, Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, claims the COVID-19 testing kits "are not good enough to be worth rolling out in very large scale," as reported by The Times. Furthermore, the outlook seems grim as Sir John Bell – a professor from the Oxford group – estimates that reliable alternatives are still about a month away.

Prof. Newton further explains that "the test developed in China was validated against patients who were severely ill with a very large viral load, generating a large amount of antibodies." Therefore, technically, the kits can still be used to screen patients who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms.

Worldwide fatalities from the new coronavirus have topped 8,700 as of March 18, 2020 Photo: AFP / Joseph Prezioso

In a related report, a British researcher supposedly developed a SARS-COV-2 testing process that can generate accurate results within five minutes. Whereas other methods can take anywhere between 24 to 48 hours, this can speed up overall processing for added efficiency. Until then, people should continue to follow precautionary measures detailed by the World Health Organization and their local authorities.