Sandwell councillors write to government over delays in getting Covid test kits

A LETTER has been sent to the government by top councillors in Sandwell who have experienced delays to the availability of Covid test kits. Sandwell Council leader, Kerrie Carmichael, Labour councillor for Blackheath, and cabinet member for adults, social care and health, councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Labour representative for Oldbury, issued an open letter to the secretary of state over their concerns. The letter states the government must “act urgently” to ensure an adequate supply of lateral flow tests for residents within Sandwell.

It states: “We were assured that the supply to pharmacies would be running as normal again after New Year. “However, at the time of writing, we are still receiving many reports that local people are once again finding local pharmacies unable to provide lateral flow tests. “This is also having a wider impact on the ability of all our partners to deliver services.

There have been numerous reports, both national and local, of pharmacy staff having to deal with anxious and frustrated members of the public who have visited the government website and been given a code to pick up tests, only to find on arrival that no tests were available. “You will be aware of the vulnerabilities of care home residents and recipients of domiciliary care, and lack of adequate testing is a cause of great concern to them and their loved ones.” According to Sandwell Council, tests have repeatedly been unavailable via the government website.

They argue the sporadic supply will make it “difficult or impossible” for local people in Sandwell to follow government guidance on testing. Sandwell is also calling for more notice of any shortages in test supply in future, which would help public health teams to carry out more effective testing. Dr Lisa McNally, director of public health at Sandwell Council, said: “Lateral Flow Tests provide an instant and rapid indication whether you have coronavirus or not.

“During New Year’s Eve, and even in the run up to it, people  in Sandwell  have bought into idea of using LFT’s to take control of things and be more precautious.” It comes as follow-up PCR tests are to be temporarily suspended for asymptomatic people who have obtained a positive lateral flow test from January 11. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the shift reflected the high accuracy of the tests and prevalence of coronavirus, which means the chances of false positives are very low.

The change will apply only to those in England taking routine lateral flow tests who do not have any symptoms of coronavirus. They must still report their result on and self-isolate for the minimum seven days. Anyone with any of the three main Covid symptoms, which are a high temperature, persistent cough and a loss or change to sense of smell or taste, must self-isolate, take a PCR test and await the results.

Dr McNally welcomed the decision from the government, adding: “LFTs can be used confidently to indicate Covid-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation. “It’s important that we don’t waste PCR tests or slots for those who need them. “People must report positive lateral flow tests, otherwise nobody will know what’s going on.

There’s already a problem with daily cases, with people not getting tested, or not reporting results. “I welcome the government’s decision on this. The change was intended to reflect the accuracy and the amount of lateral flow tests.”

In Sandwell, 176 new people had a confirmed positive test result reported on January 5, 2022.

Between December 20 2021 and January 5 2022, 6,160 people had a confirmed positive test result – an increase of 75.7 per cent compared to the previous seven days.

A total of 228,230 people had been given a first dose, 206,365 a second dose, and 132,217 people had been given a booster or third dose by the end of January 4 2022.

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