Covid test shortage puts New Year’s plans under threat: Home delivery rapid tests are STILL unavailable for third day and pharmacies turn people away every five minutes – as ministers say take a lateral flow before going out
Pharmacists have called for urgent action to improve the supply of lateral flow tests as they say they are being forced to turn people empty-handed.
The Government has advised people to take 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 the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies says people are being turned away every five minutes due to ‘patchy’ supply and said it was frustrating that chemists it represented were having to wait several days for each delivery.
The UK Health Security Agency said it was facing ‘unprecedented demand’ for the tests but insisted it had doubled its capacity since mid December.
It comes as lateral flow tests are unavailable for home delivery for a third day running meaning some families will be unable to test ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations this weekend.
The Government’s website states it is not possible to order lateral flow testing kits for home delivery with a message stating: 'Scusate, 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.’
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 Programma di oggi: ‘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.
'[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.’
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 (nella foto)
Britons can pick up lateral flow tests for free from a pharmacy listed on the NHS website
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
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
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.’
Appointments for PCR tests are also limited this morning with no availability in England as of 6am while the UK Health Security Agency has insisted the reduced availability is merely ‘temporary’.
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.’
People had been encouraged to pick up tests from their local pharmacies as the message reminds people that they cannot order tests from NHS 111 o 999 numbers.
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.’
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
La settimana scorsa, 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 sixth 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 Qui, 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 Qui, 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 Qui.
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’.