Tue, 08 Sept 2020
A senior official at NHS Test and Trace has issued an apology to people unable to get a Covid-19 test as officials consider new lockdown restrictions to curb the current spike in cases.
Director of testing Sarah-Jane Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a “critical pinch-point”.
Ms Marsh added that the system is doing “all it can to expand quickly”.
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.
In other 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.
– Communities 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 if they want to avoid the need for further restrictions.
– 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.
Ms Marsh wrote on Twitter: “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; it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.
“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, seven days a week. We recognise the country is depending on us.”
People have also complained in recent days and weeks of being directed hundreds of miles to get a test.
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged that people would have to travel no more than 75 miles for a test.
Further problems with the testing system came as a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the latest increase in coronavirus cases is “very worrying”.
Professor Andrew Hayward said scientists are monitoring the data closely for signs of wider community transmission of the disease.
“Generally it is local outbreaks, but there is also very worrying increases in cases, particularly over the last few days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“That is what we are really keeping a close eye on – the extent to which it moves away from these local outbreaks to broader community transmission.
“What we saw in the last few days from this surveillance data was this worrying increase in cases which, as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, can potentially get out of hand if we don’t be very serious about the control measures.”