Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

‘There isn’t a quick fix’: Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue as government struggles to secure supplies due to ‘global shortage’ that is threatening New Year plans after lateral flows were unavailable for THIRD day and PCRs run out

  • Lateral flow tests unavailable for a third day running, the Government stated
  • This is at least the sixth time lateral flow tests have been unavailable for delivery
  • The Government has meanwhile urged people to pick up tests from pharmacies 
  • It comes as Britons check to ensure they are Covid-free ahead of New Year’s Eve
  • Sajid Javid tells Try MP Sir Roger Gale ‘there isn’t a quick fix’ to supply issues 

By Katie Feehan For Mailonline

Published: 06:47, 29 December 2021 | Updated: 17:27, 29 December 2021

Said Javid has admitted the Covid test chaos will continue as the Government struggles to secure supplies amid a ‘global shortage’ that is threatening New Year plans after lateral flows were unavailable for a third day and PCRs ran out.

Ministers have advised people to take regular lateral flow tests before they socialise after confirming on Monday that no new Covid restrictions would be brought in for New Year’s Eve festivities.

But all over the country, Brits are having trouble getting tested as pharmacies have reported sending people away empty-handed while lateral flow tests have been unavailable for home delivery for the third day in a row.  

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said today that Mr Javid admitted there ‘isn’t a quick fix’ to ongoing supply problems. 

The North Thanet MP added: ‘Saj was very honest with me, he said, “look, there isn’t a quick fix”.’

Previously ministers and officials had insisted they had sufficient stocks but the problems were in delivering them to people’s homes or pharmacies. 

Mr Gale continued: ‘The long and the short of it is he says there is a worldwide shortage of lateral flow tests.

‘A British company that is making them has ramped up its production line fourfold and we are buying the lot, plus anything we can get from anywhere else around the world, but we are competing in a global market.’

He said his constituents had been advised to keep trying online as availability was updated throughout the day.

Sir Roger said the shortage of lateral flow tests was having a knock-on effect with people opting for PCR tests instead, but ‘there is not enough capacity’ in laboratories to process them. 

He said Mr Javid was ‘busting a gut’ to get supplies ‘but we’re competing with a global market’.

For those who need a PCR test, there were no available appointments at any walk-in centres in England or Northern Ireland as of midday. As of 2pm, slots briefly opened up in the North West of England but then became unavailable again while Scotland also showed ‘very few available’ appointments.  

Pharmacists have called for urgent action to improve the supply of lateral flow tests as they say people are being turned away every five minutes due to ‘patchy’ supply. The industry body said it was frustrating that chemists it represented were having to wait several days for each delivery.  

Pharmacists are calling for urgent action to improve the supply of lateral flow tests ahead of NYE.

People have also faced difficulties ordering testing kits for home delivery (pictured) 

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

Britons can pick up lateral flow tests for free from a pharmacy listed on the NHS website

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

Tory MP Sir Roger Gale says he has been told by Government there is a world shortage

The UK Health Security Agency said it was facing ‘unprecedented demand’ for the tests but insisted it had doubled its capacity since mid December, sending out 900,000 a day across the country.

It urged people to check the relevant Government websites regularly to see if slots had opened up or tests had become available. 

Earlier today Mr Gale wrote on Twitter: ‘Kent appears to be in Lateral Flow and PCR Test gridlock. Manston staff working flat out, no stocks in chemists and no East Kent delivery slots available.’

He later added: ‘I have spoken to Secretary of State, there is a world shortage of Lateral Flow & PCR test supplies, but we are buying all that’s available.

‘Best advice to constituents – keep trying online, as stock are being released hourly.’ 

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

An out of stock lateral flow test sign on a window of a Boots pharmacy in London earlier today

Pharmacies across the country have reported shortages of LFTs and many are unable to replenish their kits as the supply chain has been affected by Christmas and New Year holidays. 

Some pharmacies reported they have not had stock since last Monday and it could take three days for new supplies to arrive.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: ‘Pharmacies are reporting that every five minutes people are coming in and asking for tests.

‘But unfortunately, due to the issues around supply being patchy and inconsistent, it means those who come for the tests don’t always get it which is very stressful, not just for the pharmacy team but also for the patients.

‘The scale of the problem is huge because the demand is high due to the current guidelines and people are doing the responsible thing by wanting to be tested.

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

Pharmacists say they are turning people away empty handed due to a shortage of LTF supplies

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

As of this morning there were no available appointments at PCR testing sites and testing kits were also showing as unavailable for home delivery on the Government’s website this morning

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

Care Minister Gillian Keegan urged people to get tested before going to parties but pharmacists said the supply is ‘patchy’ and said people are being sent away empty handed

Ordering a Covid test online: What happened when MailOnline tried to get hold of a lateral flow test and book a PCR appointment

Testing availability in much of the UK has been sporadic over the Christmas period with Government websites periodically saying they are unavailable. 

Out of five MailOnline reporters who tried to order Covid tests today – just one was able to get hold of lateral flows after logging on early this morning. 

After visiting the website each reporter was reminded that picking up a lateral flow test from a local pharmacy is the quickest way to get a kit.

It then instructed users on those who can use the service, including people without symptoms, who are 11 or older and who have not been told to self-isolate. It then asked a series of questions, including contact details and whether you are showing symptoms.

But on each try, a message appeared stating: ‘Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now.’

It then directed people to visit their pharmacy if they do not have symptoms. 

When trying to book a PCR test, users were presented with a similar reminder about who is eligible to receive this type of test.

It then asked users if they are sure they are eligible and whether you are a key worker.

A screen then appeared informing users that there are no home tests for the general public or key workers.

It also stated there was no availability for walk-in test appointments anywhere in England or Northern Ireland.

Since this morning, availability has opened up in the North West, but it continued to change throughout the afternoon.

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‘[900,000 kits a day] just isn’t enough to meet the demand and it’s patchy. Some days you get one box delivered to you and some days you get none so it just isn’t enough for pharmacies to give to patients.

‘This has been going on for some weeks now and what we are asking the Government to ensure that they promptly address the supply issues to meet the high demand and also address the cumbersome processes for the supply of this, the bureaucratic processes.’

The Government’s website urges people to go to their pharmacies to get tests and only order online if they are unable to do so.

The website currently states it is not possible to order lateral flow testing kits for home delivery with a message stating: ‘Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now.

‘You may still be able to pick up rapid lateral flow tests from a pharmacy or collection point, where these are available.

Only pick up tests if you do not have symptoms.’

People have been left frustrated as they try and ensure they stay Covid-free ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations this weekend and have been urged to test regularly by the Government. 

Speaking to broadcasters about New Year celebrations yesterday, Care Minister Gillian Keegan said: ‘We have always said ”act cautiously” since this new variant came among us.

‘It is highly infectious and many people will know people who have caught this over the Christmas period.

‘So do be cautious, take a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) before you go out. Go to well-ventilated areas – I have been to a couple of outdoor parties actually, people have moved things to outside.

‘So just be cautious, but do try to enjoy yourself as well – but cautiously.’ 

A UKHSA spokesperson encouraged members of the public to revisit the Government website every few hours.  

‘Despite unprecedented demand, we are continuing to supply millions of rapid lateral flow tests every day.

‘Our total delivery capacity has doubled to 900,000 test kits per day since Saturday 18 December so more people can order tests.

‘During periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements for lateral flow device and PCR tests, and delivery capacity was reduced over Christmas and the bank holiday.’  

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

 

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

 

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

 

The government website also suggested: ‘If you have tests at home, including ones that children have brought home from school, you can use these instead.’ 

It also said that the 119 service ‘does not have access to more home delivery slots right now’. 

A UKHSA spokesperson added: ‘Rapid tests are available to order directly to people’s homes via gov.uk and availability is refreshed regularly throughout the day.

‘We encourage people to re-visit the site every few hours if they are unable to order tests as more will become available – and to please ensure they are making use of any tests they already have at home before ordering or collecting more.’

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

 

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

UK Government statistics show how the number of Covid tests being conducted has reached 1.5m a day, with the number of swabs carried out having shot up since Omicron first emerged

Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle Sajid Javid admits Covid test chaos will continue amid supply struggle

The situation has been branded a ‘shambles’ by Labour MPs.

Shadow minister for public health Andrew Gwynne, the MP for Denton and Reddish, tweeted: ‘What an utter shambles. It’s not as if you couldn’t have expected an increase in demand as people return to work after the Christmas holidays.

‘Ministers need to urgently sort this out before schools return too.’

His colleague Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, agreed, adding: ‘The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.

Ministers are nowhere to be seen.

‘They need to get a grip and make enough tests available so that people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.’

Meanwhile, Labour MP Stella Creasy said: ‘Lack of Covid tests and delays in processing them doesn’t just mean a lag in data.

‘For anyone immunocomprised [sic] a PCR test [is] critical to getting antivirals prescription – they have a window of 5 days to get them for them to work, so any delay in being affects chances of treatment.’

Last week, a public health expert warned people to use tests ‘responsibly’ amid the shortage.

Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said on Twitter: ‘I am hearing about people carrying out multiple lateral flow tests in a single day.

‘The tests are in short supply in many parts of England and this kind of practice will exacerbate supply problems, including for key workers such as NHS staff.

Please use the tests responsibly.’

This is at least the seventh time lateral flow tests have been unavailable for delivery while the government urges people to collect tests from their local pharmacies. 

How can you get a lateral flow test? 

How can I pick up a lateral flow test?

You can pick up tests for free from a pharmacy or other collection point, which is the quickest way to get one for most people.

Visit the NHS website by clicking here, where you can find your local site.

You can then click on ‘get a collect code’, and you are given a code to give to that centre.

How can I order a lateral flow test?

You can order a lateral flow test kit online by clicking here, although the NHS asks people to only order online if they cannot pick up a test. 

When should I do a lateral flow test?

The NHS advises you should take a lateral flow tests on ‘days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid-19’, such as before you mix with people in crowded indoor places, or visit someone who is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.

Double jabbed adults are also now being asked to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19. 

When can you get a PCR test?

You can order a free PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site, by clicking here

You should get one if you have any of the main three Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or they’ve changed.

The Government says that if you have no symptoms you can also get a PCR test kit if:

  • you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive and you must self-isolate
  • you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
  • a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
  • you’re taking part in a government pilot project
  • you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
  • you’ve received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
  • you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms
  • you’re in the National Tactical Response Group

When do you have to isolate? 

New guidance which came into force this month says that fully vaccinated people who are in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case should take a rapid lateral flow test every day for a week to help slow the spread of the virus. 

People who test positive or develop symptoms are still required to isolate, as are unvaccinated people who are ‘not eligible for this new daily testing policy’.  

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