NHS staff are infecting patients with coronavirus as they aren't being tested or showing symptoms, a health official has admitted.

Doctors are worried they are becoming "part of the problem", citing a lack of masks, gloves and visors to stop them from becoming infected and then possibly passing it on.

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Yvonne Doyle, the medical health director of Public Health England, said healthcare workers could pose a risk when meeting patients.

While appearing via videolink before MPs on the health and social care committee she said about 30 per cent of people infected with Covid-19 are not showing symptoms.

Professor Doyle said "in theory" that medical staff in this category as well as others could infect patients with the killer bug.

She added that testing for Covid-19 should be available next month and it will give NHS staff on the frontline answers on if they are infected.

Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "The nervousness is real that we become part of the problem, as well as part of the solution."

The British Medical Association has also said staff needed to be tested urgently so they can continue to help patients.

Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the union, said more and more staff are self-isolating and doctors are becoming more uncomfortable about the current guidance on protective equipment in surgeries.

The World Health Organization suggests anyone seeing potential coronavirus patients in person must wear a mask, gloves and surgical gown as well as eye protection.

Eye protection was not included in the PPE packs sent out by NHS England to surgeries as PHE advises that a plastic apron, mask and gloves is sufficient.

Dr Nagpaul added: "We had situations where many GP practices and hospitals were understaffed.

"The staff themselves who were self-isolating were telling us they felt able to work but were following the guidance and that if they were able to be tested they would come back to work."

Boris Johnson has promised to prioritise testing for NHS and key workers so they can get back to work.

PHE has bought 3.5million coronavirus home test kits that could be available in a matter of weeks.

It is a finger-prick test that detects antibodies to the virus in the blood and is able to determine if someone has or has already had Covid-19.

The Government last night made it clear those tests will not be available for the public to buy.

The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, explained the government would prioritise key workers – such as NHS staff – for the new antibody test.

Explaining the process at the Downing Street press briefing last night, he said: "Once we’re confident of which tests will work and how many we have available to use, there’s a hierarchy of things that we need to do.

"We need to start off by answering that critical question – what proportion of people get this without any symptoms because that has big implications for the way we then manage this.

"Then we need to help make sure we can get NHS workers tested to make sure we can work out who is immune, or almost certainly immune, to this infection and who isn’t."


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