The controversy over coronavirus test kits for doctors and nurses intensified yesterday as it emerged that prisoners are more likely to be tested than the health workers.
Inmates displaying clear coronavirus symptoms of dry cough, fever and high temperature are swabbed and the sample tested on the recommendation of nurses because of the risk of the disease spreading in the confined space of a jail.
By contrast, frontline doctors and nurses treating coronavirus victims are generally not tested even when they display symptoms. Instead, they self-isolate and are only tested if they fall so ill that they require hospital treatment.
Health workers have been promised that they will shortly get access to 3.5m antibody tests for coronavirus bought by the Government so that they will be able to find out whether they have been infected and are safe to go back to work.
The disclosure came as it also emerged that migrants illegally entering the UK after crossing the channel are also entitled to coronavirus checks if admitted to hospital.
Yesterday 95 migrants including nine children were landed in Britain after their six boats were intercepted by the Border Force.
“If people break into the country illegally, whether by small boats or lorries, they should be immediately quarantined. That is why I am calling for all who enter the UK illegally to be quarantined for 14 days for the protection of our community and our country.” said Natalie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover.
“We have a serious shortage of testing kits for frontline nurses and doctors and other key health workers. There is a national need to prioritise and that’s where the testing resources need to go - not on testing illegal entrants and prisoners.”
Nineteen prisoners have tested positive for coronavirus across ten prisons with 350 self-isolating.
Four prison staff have also tested positive for COVID-19 across 4 prisons.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice is considering the early release of up to 50 pregnant female prisoners and some of the 9,000 inmates being held on remand before they go to trial as well as those due for imminent release having completed their sentences.
A Home Office spokesman said: 'In line with Public Health England guidance migrants are not specifically tested for coronavirus, but are continuously monitored for symptoms.'
Tony Eastaugh, Home Office Director for Crime & Enforcement, said the UK and France was working around the clock to tackle illegal migrant crossings. “Since we intensified our work against people smugglers 16 months ago, the courts have convicted and imprisoned 110 offenders,' he said.