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UK News

COVID tests could ‘run out’ temporarily amid surge in demand, officials warn


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The UK Health Security Agency has warned “exceptionally high demand” means coronavirus tests could be temporarily unavailable to order.

Demand is surging as the more transmissible Omicron variant pushes cases numbers to record levels.

Lateral flow and PCR tests were both unavailable for home delivery across the UK via the government website on Wednesday morning.

COVID news live – latest from the UK and around the world

PCR tests are not available for delivery
Image: PCR tests were unavailable for delivery on Wednesday morning

PCR walk-in and drive-through sites were also severely restricted. None were available in England or Northern Ireland and “very few” in Scotland.

Both tests were available for delivery shortly after noon, while in-person PCR slots were also bookable across the country.

However, after about half an hour of availability, lateral flow tests again showed as unavailable for delivery – suggesting supply could be patchy in the days ahead.

More on Covid-19 says people might still be able to collect a kit from a pharmacy when the website shows lateral flow tests as unavailable.

However, pharmacies are also reporting very high demand, with people coming in “every five minutes” for tests according to an industry representative.

A spokesman for the UK Health Security Agency said that “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 and PCR tests”.

He said availability is regularly refreshed 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.”

Demand is also believed to have been driven up by recently updated COVID isolation rules.

A sign informing customers that lateral flow tests are out of stock is seen at a pharmacy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in London, Britain December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
Image: Pharmacies are also struggling with very high demand for tests

People can now end isolation after a week instead of 10 days if they get two negative lateral flow tests 24 hours apart – the first taken on the sixth day.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated also do not need to isolate but are strongly advised to take a lateral flow test every day for a week.

Large numbers of absences are badly affecting the NHS, with four in 10 staff in London currently not at work due to sickness or coronavirus quarantine.

It has led to calls for the isolation period to be cut again to five days to protect key industries, following a similar move in America.

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ICU patients ‘overwhelmingly’ not boosted – Johnson

Mirroring the picture in a number of European countries, coronavirus case numbers hit another new record in England on Tuesday, with 117,093 reported.

However, the number seriously ill on a ventilator in hospital has so far not increased, apparently backing up studies that suggest Omicron is not as harmful as the Delta variant.

Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that “up to 90%” of people currently in intensive care with COVID have not had their booster jab.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2021

Written by: Rother Radio News

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