Covid test shortages threaten New Years Eve celebrations in England – The Guardian

Shortages of lateral flow tests (LFTs) and lack of walk-in test slots across England are threatening to undermine the governments plans for New Years Eve celebrations to go ahead unimpeded.

Pharmacies across England report having run out of test kits for distribution to the public before Christmas, and have been unable to receive additional kits as the supply chain has been disrupted by the Christmas and Boxing Day holidays.

Some community pharmacies in rural areas said they had not received deliveries of LFTs since early last week, although many remained closed on Monday and Tuesday because of the extended bank holidays.

People turning to the government website were also out of luck: on Tuesday morning it said no delivery slots for LFTs were available, for the second day in a row. But by mid-afternoon deliveries were again being offered, with a warning that the LFT kits could take three days to arrive.

The site also indicated that there were no walk-in LFT or PCR tests available anywhere in England on Tuesday morning. By early afternoon the site was indicating availability of PCR tests in most parts of England, although some areas were close to running out.

The UK Health Security Agency said it encouraged people to revisit the sites every few hours if they were unable to order tests, as more would become available, and to use any tests they may already have before ordering or collecting more kits.

A spokesperson said: 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 LFD [lateral flow device] and PCR tests, and delivery capacity was reduced over Christmas and the bank holiday.

Tests were available in all regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to the site.

On Monday the government declined to impose further Covid curbs in England, allowing nightclubs and pubs to open for New Years Eve and giving other mass events the go-ahead.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said; Of course people should remain cautious as we approach new year celebrations and take a lateral flow test if that makes sense.

Covid cases in England reached a new high of 113,628 on Christmas Day, and 1,281 people were admitted to hospital, the highest daily figure since mid-February.

Official data on new Covid cases, which was delayed over the festive period, also showed 98,515 new confirmed cases reported in England on Monday. Data for Boxing Day from England and Wales combined revealed 108,893 new cases reported.

Case numbers have also hit new highs in Scotland, where 8,252 cases were reported for Christmas Day, 11,030 on Boxing Day and 10,562 on Monday.

Demand for tests has soared during the Christmas holiday period, with positive test results reaching record levels in England as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.

Demand further increased last week after the government cut the self-isolation period for England from 10 to seven days for those with negative LFT results on day six and seven. The 10-day self-isolation period remains in force in Wales and Scotland.

Pharmacies are limited to receiving one carton of tests a day. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said its members were struggling to meet demand, and asked for the public to be patient with pharmacists, who were working extremely hard over the Christmas period.

A spokesperson for Boots said: Boots provides access to Covid-19 lateral flow device test kits on behalf of the NHS. We are able to order more stock from the NHS each day and are therefore restocking regularly, but due to high demand over the holiday season, some stores will run out before the end of the day.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said: People are trying to do the right thing, follow the governments own advice, and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative governments incompetence.

They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.

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Covid test shortages threaten New Years Eve celebrations in England - The Guardian

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