Surging demand for Covid tests creates ‘temporary pressure’ on service


People wanting to check whether or not they are infected with coronavirus have again been left frustrated after a third day of problems getting hold of tests, with “the very rapid rise” in cases fuelling “temporary pressure” on the service.

Government websites reported that rapid lateral flow tests were “not available right now”, the third day of problems as demand surged.

People trying to book walk-in PCR tests also encountered problems, with some being directed to sites several miles away or being told no slots were available.

Elsewhere, the vaccine booster rollout was again met with reports of queues at medical centres and on the Government’s website.

Coronavirus – Tue Oct 19, 2021
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said test demand was in high supply (Toby Melville/PA)

Dr Harries told MPs on Wednesday: “We do have sufficient tests both for PCR and LFTs (lateral flow tests).

“But the very rapid rises is causing some temporary pressure.”

She added: “This morning, between six and eight o’clock, 200,000 packs of seven LFTs were ordered.

“Yesterday I think we were running at plus 83% compared with the same day last week.

“Some of this is clearly because of changes in policy, so that we can support individuals to be in work, which is actually critical when we have a new variant wave and people are more likely to be a contact as there’ll be so many cases and people off sick. So we recognise that.

“One of the really important things to know is it wasn’t that we don’t have tests in the country, it’s actually about getting them delivered.”

Coronavirus – Wed Dec 15, 2021
Screengrab of the queue screen on the NHS England website for booking a coronavirus booster jab (NHS England/PA)

There was a particular issue on Wednesday getting walk-in PCR appointments in London, where Covid cases are said to be accelerating more than was seen during the very first wave of the virus.

The Government’s website said there were “no available” walk-in test site slots in London, with the same issue in Hertfordshire, the Isle of Wight, Middlesex, Surrey and Bristol.

A UKHSA spokesman said: “Appointments for PCR tests are available, but high demand can lead to temporary reduced availability in some areas. More appointments are made available to book every afternoon.

“Testing is playing an integral role in keeping people safe and managing the virus and we’re so grateful to everyone that’s getting tested to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities.

“Everyone with symptoms or who is directed to get a PCR test should continue to come forward to get a test delivered to their home or at a test site.”

Coronavirus queue
People queue at a vaccination centre at the Eastern Christian Family Centre, Bristol (Ben Birchall/PA)

It comes as Dr Harries warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant was “probably the most significant threat we’ve had since the start of the pandemic”.

Those testing positive for coronavirus from now will likely be in isolation until at least Christmas Day.

The Government website states those testing positive will need to self-isolate from the day symptoms started and the next 10 full days.

People may need to self-isolate for longer if they get symptoms while self-isolating or if the symptoms do not go away.

Downing Street announced mass vaccination centres would open at Wembley Stadium and at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, within days.


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