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People unable to get coronavirus tests after labs reach ‘critical pinch-point’

Written by on 8 September 2020

People across the country are unable to get coronavirus tests because laboratories have reached a “critical pinch-point” in processing them.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, has apologised and said “we are doing all we can to expand quickly”.

She added that other facilities that could process the tests are due to “open up imminently”.

There have been reports of people being told there are no appointments available at test centres in England and that there are no home tests kits available to send out.

Ms Marsh tweeted on Tuesday: “Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present.

“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.

“We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”

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She added in a follow up tweet: “We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests.

“The Testing Team work on this 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“We recognise the country is depending on us.”

Andy Thompson, 38, a technical manager from Crewe, said his six-year-old daughter is home from school with a continuous cough, but has so far been unable to get a home test.

He said: “It’s an absolute shambles. No home tests available. And now the nearest test centre is Oldham, a 100-mile round-trip with a sick child.

“I didn’t realise how bad it is. If you haven’t got a car, no way you’re getting tested.”

It comes after people complained in recent days and weeks of being directed hundreds of miles to get a test.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day and new booking slots and home testing kits are being made available daily.

“There is a high demand for tests and to help stop the spread of the virus we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

“We have the capacity to test for coronavirus at an unprecedented scale. We are expanding capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October, increasing the number of testing sites and bringing in new technology to process results faster.”