Boris Johnson must adopt a “Dunkirk” approach to coronavirus testing and enlist “small ship” laboratories to rapidly increase the number performed daily, the chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute has said. 

Amid a mounting backlash over the Government’s failure to scale up testing fast enough, Sir Paul Nurse called on the Prime Minister to bring university and private research institutes into the fold.

With the UK still trailing well behind Germany, ministers and Public Health England have faced criticism over the centralised approach which has so far confined tests to PHE-approved facilities. 

This morning Sir Paul warned that the UK needed to change strategy quickly, adding that the Government was “running out time” to get on top of the outbreak. 

He added that the Francis Crick Institute’s research laboratory alone could conduct 500 tests per day, rising to 2,000 in the future. 

“A metaphor here is Dunkirk – we are a lot of little boats and the little boats can be effective.

“The Government has put some big boats, destroyers in place. That’s a bit more cumbersome to get working and we wish them all the luck to do that, but we little boats can contribute as well.”

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