Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS have launched a new surveillance system to detect cases of COVID-19 in England.
It a statement, PHE said the new system will strengthen existing surveillance and enable PHE to identify early evidence of spread within England.
A number of NHS hospitals are implementing the new surveillance in intensive care units and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation centres. A programme of testing is also being introduced across a network of around 100 primary care sites in England.
Samples will be tested from patients with severe respiratory infections who do not meet the current case definition for COVID-19.
PHE said the detection system will identify both mild and more unwell cases. Depending on the results, patients will be given the support they need and rapid public health actions will be taken, PHE said.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, PHE Medical Director, said: “We have taken a belt and braces approach throughout this outbreak. This new system is another important way we can help limit the impact of COVID-19 in the UK, as we continue to ensure we have the best possible intelligence to protect the public’s health."
“There is no change in risk for the public but taking this preparatory step now will enable us to better detect and contain the spread of the virus,” she said.
The new process will not apply to patients meeting the current COVID-19 case definition, who will continue to be isolated and tested as appropriate.