Britons report trouble ordering Covid-19 testing kit

Young people flouting social-distancing rules blamed for rise in cases in UK

A medical worker approaches a car in a drive-thru testing centre, following a spike in cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to visitors of a pub in Stone, Britain, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine
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Anxious Britons concerned they have caught Covid-19 are reporting difficulty ordering home tests to check for the coronavirus, as cases continue to rise in the UK.

Some who tried to obtain them online were greeted by a message saying the service was unavailable.

“Please try again in a few hours when more tests should be available,” they were told on the government’s official page for ordering a kit.

It is understood that the government has not run out of tests, but that it sometimes suspends the booking portal when demand is high.

A representative for the Department of Health and Social Care said hundreds of thousands of people were being tested every day.

“There is a high demand for tests and to help stop the spread of the virus we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

“We have the capacity to test for coronavirus at an unprecedented scale. We are expanding capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October, increasing the number of testing sites and bringing in new technology to process results faster.”

Helen Hayes, a Labour Party MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in south London, said she was aware of the situation and criticised the Conservative government’s Covid-19 test and tracing system.

“Many reports from constituents of difficulty accessing test appointments & home testing kits,” Ms Hayes wrote on Twitter.

“If this is your experience please email me so I can build up a picture of [the] extent of issues locally. As schools & universities return & Covid cases increase, test & trace is a shambles,” she said.

The UK reported 2,988 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the highest daily total since May, despite numbers typically dipping at weekends when reporting is more limited. The daily average last week was about 1,600.

Health Minister Matt Hancock attributed the rise to young people, rejecting claims that the government had lost control when questioned by LBC Radio.

“No, but the whole country needs to follow the social distancing because we can only do this as a whole society,” Mr Hancock said.

Labour’s health spokesman Jon Ashworth said the situation was extremely concerning.

“But what’s really worrying me is that we’re seeing infection rates rising while at the same time there’s all these problems that people are experiencing trying to get a test,” Mr Ashworth told the BBC.

Continental Europe has also had a renewed surge in cases.

France reported 7,071 new infections on Sunday, 8,550 on Saturday and 8,975 on Friday, and the French health ministry said cases were particularly prevalent in young people.

In Italy, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi remains in hospital with Covid-19 but doctors said they remained cautiously optimistic about the 83-year-old’s progress.

Spain, which has been hit particularly hard by the spike in cases across Europe, is reopening schools, which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez insists is safe.