'Drive-thru' coronavirus testing to start on Monday –,

'Drive-thru' coronavirus testing to start on Monday –,

Suspected cases asked to drive to NHS health centers where nurses in Hazmat gear will swab them through the window

“Drive-thru” coronavirus testing is to be introduced on the NHS – with suspected cases swabbed in their own cars.

The new scheme is part of efforts to relieve pressure on ambulance and hospital services, amid concern they could soon be overwhelmed by the number of tests they are carrying out.

It comes as around 78 Britons and other European nationals, who spent weeks trapped on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan, returned to the UK to spend a fortnight in quarantine in the wirral.

They have so far tested negative for Covid – , the illness brought on by coronavirus.

But David and Sally Abel, a couple from Northamptonshire who were diagnosed with coronavirus on the ship and are currently being treated in a Japanese hospital, have since been told they have pneumonia.

Their son Steve Abel said in a YouTube video late on Friday evening that his father’s condition was “very serious”, while his mother has a more mild form of pneumonia. The couple have criticized the conditions at the hospital.

Although just nine people have been diagnosed with the virus in the UK, the NHS has now carried out 6, 823 tests on suspected cases.

Each case can keep an ambulance off the road for up to eight hours, with each vehicle having to be decontaminated before it can be used again.

Now the NHS is to ask patients with suspected coronavirus to drive to health center car parks, with nurses in Hazmat gear swabbing them through a rolled-down window.

The scheme, being pioneered by a London trust, comes alongside the rollout of “home testing” for coronavirus – with nurses and doctors specifically asked to visit patients at home to collect their samples.

Central London Community Healthcare NHS trust will launch the “drive thru” scheme in the car park of one of its health centers on Monday.

NHS sources said other trusts were watching the scheme with interest, meaning the initiative could be rolled out more widely if it is a success.

The scheme at Parsons Green Health Center, in west London, is intended to relieve pressure on hospital and ambulance services.

However, the plans have sparked some concern that those who are unable to drive may be asked if they have someone who can take them to the center, potentially putting an extra person in danger of infection.

Nurses based at the center will be asked to don protective clothing before traveling outside to collect swabs from patients in their cars, with patients then asked to return home, unless they are feeling ill.

Only patients referred by NHS 152 will be sent to the drive thru service, with pregnant women and those thought to be seriously ill excluded under its protocols.

Other NHS trusts have begun piloting home-testing for coronavirus.

British Diamond Princess evacuees depart from Boscombe Down airfield following a repatriation flight from Tokyo Credit : getty

Professor Keith Willett, the NHS strategic incident director for coronavirus, said testing people in their own homes rather than taking them to hospital would help to limit the spread of infection.

Dr Laurence John, an infectious diseases expert at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, said it has become clear that it is “very inefficient” to transport everyone in need of tests to hospital.

He said the need for new approaches became clear after London ambulances ended up out of service on the same afternoon, because of the demands of testing.

University College London Hospitals Foundation trust, Guys and St Thomas Hospital Foundation trust and St George’s University Hospitals Trust have also embarked on home-testing schemes.

Because of the need to keep patients with suspected coronavirus in isolation, health officials stress that anyone concerned they may be suffering from the virus should call , rather than go to their GP or hospital.

In Italy the death of two people has led to shops and schools closing to try to halt a rise in new infections.

The death of a 75 – year-old woman on Saturday near the small town of Codogno in Lombardy came one day after a – year-old man succumbed to the virus in the neighborhood region of Veneto, marking the first in Italy and Europe.

Iran yesterday ordered the closure of schools and universities in two cities hit by a coronavirus outbreak that has killed five people in the Islamic republic – the most outside the Far East.

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