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NHS trusts and staff across the UK have also urged Britons not to head to A&E to seek coronavirus tests amid growing concerns about access to speedy testing. Epidemiologist Tim Spector issued a plea to parents to keep children with a cough or the sniffles home instead of “rushing around” to find a test unless the symptoms worsen. BBC Today programme host Nick Robinson asked: “If we could simplify this, I think you’re saying that people who erring on the side of caution, who’ve got a cough or a sniffle, you want them to do the opposite.
“You want them to err on not burdening the NHS until it’s pretty clear that they really need a test. Is that right?”
Prof Spector said: “Certainly for the next few weeks while the whole system is stretched and this major school cold outbreak goes, I think that’s the sensible advice.
“So yes, absolutely, by all means keep your kid at home but don’t rush around the country trying to get a test for something that’s highly likely to be a cold and not COVID.”
The NHS has also been urging Britons to call non-emergency service 111 to have operators help asses whether their situation requires an A&E visit or if alternatives can be found.
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Prof Spector, who has been helping develop the COVID-19 Symptom Study app to help track the development of the virus, suggested the study so far had helped identify an effective method to assess whether symptoms are connected to the coronavirus or to simple colds.
He said: “What we’re learning from all these data points is that nearly everybody, 80 percent of people in all the age groups reported quite severe headaches and tiredness, fatigue.
“What we’re seeing is that people are particularly worried about having either a cold or COVID, if they don’t have this combination of symptoms, it’s highly unlikely their symptoms are actually related.
“We have to realise that perhaps 98 percent of the tests are negative, so most of the people are getting it wrong.”
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NHS staff have warned coronavirus social distancing measures have cut down the capacity of A&Es across the country, heightening the risk for non-COVID infected patients to catch the virus if people fearing to have the virus rush to the hospital.
On Tuesday, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust urged locals to stay away from accidents and emergencies unless they require critical and immediate care.
Medical director Dr Francis Andrews: “We are seeing more people being admitted with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 as a result of the very high rate of infections in Bolton. This is not a shift we want to see.
“The situation at the hospital is under control and we were well prepared for this.
“However, the rate continuing to rise is of concern and we continue to urge the people of Bolton to consider others when making decisions that could jeopardise their safety.”
The warning comes amid growing concerns about Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing a new national lockdown after weeks of local areas experiencing COVID-19 surges being shut down.
Mr Johnson however on Wednesday insisted he does not want a new lockdown: “I don’t want a second national lockdown.
“I think it would be completely wrong for this country and we are going to do everything in our power to prevent it … I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
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