People unable to get COVID-19 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.”
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.”
Matt Hancock said problems with coronavirus testing capacity will be sorted within weeks.
When asked by the Health Select Committee about Ms Marsh’s tweet, he said: “We are working incredibly hard.
“We are doing everything we can. We have had these operational issues that I have talked about, we have had a problem with a couple of contracts and we discussed some of that in the House of Commons.
“But it’s a matter of a couple of weeks until we can get all of that sorted in the short term.”
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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.
Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “It beggars belief that six months into this pandemic the government are only now realising that the testing system is not set up to meet demand.
“It is now clear what a major strategic error it was for the government to decide to set up a brand new laboratory infrastructure from scratch and once again we are playing catch up.
“Ministers urgently need to get a grip on this ahead of the winter.”
In other coronavirus developments:
- It is understood that officials are considering reducing the number of people who can gather indoors in England. The current limit is 30 but it could be cut as a result of the current spike in cases
- England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said there has been a rise in coronavirus cases because people have “relaxed too much”
- Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s special envoy for the global COVID-19 response, said a second wave is coming
- Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the recent rise in the number of coronavirus cases is “concerning” and it is essential that people follow the government guidelines
- Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said a local coronavirus lockdown is being imposed in Caerphilly because there is evidence of “community transmission” in the area
- Restrictions on household visits across western parts of Scotland have been extended for a further week and expanded to also include East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire
- There were a further 2,948 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of 9am on Monday, following the 2,988 reported on Sunday, which was the largest daily figure since May
- Just over 57,400 deaths involving COVID-19 have now been registered in the UK, according to figures from official data sources
- Aviation industry leaders have urged the government to commit to a coronavirus testing regime for international arrivals, after a new regional approach to England’s quarantine policy was announced
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.”