Scramble for coronavirus home-testing kits after screening is expanded
Home coronavirus test kits ran out online again in 80 minutes this morning after the Government said everyone over 65 can now get a test if they suffer symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock also said anyone who has to leave home to work will be eligible for a test amid a rush to hit his 100,000 daily checks target by tomorrow.
In a further expansion, he added that all social care staff, residents of care homes and NHS patients will be eligible for a test whether they have symptoms or not.
The Government also revealed today that 14,700 home tests sold out this morning, and that 43,563 tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday.
This included 16,440 carried out by the NHS and Public Health England and 25,289 at drive-through centres. Ministers said the daily testing capacity is now at 73,400.
The Government website had run out of home test kits again as of 9.20am today, 80 minutes after the new batch were made available, although drive-through were slots available
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured at Downing Street this morning) said anyone who has to leave home to work will be eligible for a test, in a major expansion of the testing programme
A medical worker at a drive-in coronavirus testing facility at Chessington in Surrey today
Previously, only key workers displaying symptoms or those sick with possible Covid-19 in hospitals and care homes were able to get a swab for the virus.
But national testing co-ordinator Professor John Newton stressed those newly eligible for coronavirus tests should only apply for a test if they have symptoms.
‘High availability’ of coronavirus tests
At 10.26am, the Department of Health and Social Care tweeted they had expanded eligibility for coronavirus tests.
The Government account said there was ‘high availability’ for tests today in:
Speaking to LBC radio this morning, Prof Newton said: ‘This is for people who are unwell with coronavirus symptoms, and their households… it’s not a screen.’
He added there are a ‘number of ways’ people can access the test, including over 40 drive-in centres, and a limited number of postage tests sent directly to homes.
‘If you have symptoms, go on to gov.uk and there’s a special link that tells you how to log on and get a test,’ he said.
His comments about only booking a test if you have symptoms come despite Mr Hancock saying yesterday that Ministers were rolling out testing to ‘asymptomatic residents and staff in care homes in England, and to patients and staff in the NHS’.
The new rules will more than double the number of people entitled to book a test slot in one of 41 drive-through centres or have a test delivered to their home.
The Government website had run out of home test kits again as of 9.20am today, 80 minutes after the new batch were released, but drive-through were slots available.
Ministers had initially offered just 5,000 home test kits a day after the website was launched last Friday, but aim to expand this to 25,000 a day by the end of the week.
A member of the armed forces at the drive-through testing centre at Chessington today
A soldier provides instructions to people arriving at a testing centre in a Park and Ride facility in Salisbury, Wiltshire, today
Queues in a car park where soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment are carrying out tests at a Covid-19 testing centre in Macclesfield, Cheshire, today
A soldier provides instructions at a Covid-19 testing centre in Macclesfield, Cheshire, today
Soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster’s regiment at the centre in Macclesfield, Cheshire, today
Until now about 10million key workers have been eligible for the coronavirus tests, but this has now increased by at least 12million over-65s.
Timeline of the virus testing website launch
FRIDAY (APRIL 24)
- 6am: Government’s new coronavirus testing website launches for key workers displaying symptoms
- 6.02am: Stock of 5,000 home kits are all ordered in just two minutes
- 10am: 15,000 drive-through slots are all booked as new registrations close
- 8am: More tests released on website
- 8.15am: All 5,000 home kits are taken
- 10am: No more drive-through tests available to book in England
- 8am: More tests are launched
- 10am: Home testing kits are again listed as ‘unavailable’
- 8am: Availability of home and drive-through tests goes live again
- 9.05am: Home tests no longer available
- 12pm: Only drive-through tests in England and Scotland are left
- 8am: A further 10,000 home tests are made available on the website
- 9am: More than 7,000 are ordered in the first hour of availability
- 8am: Availability of tests goes live again, this time for everyone over 65 displaying symptoms, as well as social care staff, residents of care homes and NHS patients whether they have symptoms or not.
- 9.20am: All home test kits taken up
More than 4,000 people have died in care homes in the last fortnight alone. There is just a day to go until Mr Hancock’s self-imposed deadline for 100,000 daily tests.
New figures show he is less than half-way there, with 43,453 tests on Monday, although this was up from 37,024 on Sunday and 29,058 on Saturday.
Yesterday, Mr Hancock seemed to move the goalposts, placing a £100 bet with radio presenter Nick Ferrari that he would hit 100,000 by May 1.
He said at last night’s press conference: ‘We’re still on track but it’s a big, big task. There’s a lot of things we need to get right, so there are no guarantees in this life.’
He also said the dispatch of home test kits would be expanded to 25,000 a day by Friday, while mobile testing units manned by the Army will total more than 70.
‘All of this has led to an increase in daily testing capacity, which now stands at 73,400,’ he said. ‘This has allowed us progressively to expand access to testing.
‘So from now, we’re making testing available to all over-65s and their households with symptoms.
‘And to all workers who have to leave home to go to work, and members of their households, again, who have symptoms.
‘So from construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.’
He added: ‘Building on successful pilots, we will be rolling out testing of asymptomatic residents and staff in care homes in England, and to patients and staff in the NHS. I am determined to do everything I can to protect the most vulnerable.’
A car is directed into near-empty testing bays at a drive-in testing facility at Chessington today
A member of the armed forces tests a key worker for coronavirus at a drive-through testing facility at the Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey yesterday
Asked about the last-minute increase in testing numbers over the weekend, Mr Hancock said: ‘The plan was always to have a big ramp-up at the end of April because I spent April putting in place the systems to take this from an individual lab-by-lab process … to an essentially automated process with an automatic application online. Since that went live at the end of last week we have seen a very rapid rise.’
Effective coronavirus antibody tests ‘will be available by the end of May or early June’
The Government is ‘optimistic’ that effective coronavirus antibody tests will be available by the end of May or early June, according to national testing co-ordinator Professor John Newton.
As millions more tests are being rolled out for those with Covid-19 symptoms, Prof Newton said antibody tests – which detect whether a person has had coronavirus – are also in the pipeline.
Speaking on the BBC, he said: ‘There has been a lot of work in antibody testing. We are optimistic that we will have a good antibody test when we need it.
‘Not many people would test positive for an antibody test right now.’
He added: ‘There are antibody tests available now but we think there will be better tests, and we are not testing people until we have those.’
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the aim is still to meet the 100,000-a-day target by the end of tomorrow.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Yes that is his aim to get 100,000 tests being done but I think the critical thing here is anybody there who needs a test that can’t get one which is why capacity also matters.
‘That’s why the first thing is to build the capacity and the second thing is to make sure that everybody knows they can get access to that test and we’re now doing both of those things.’
Mr Eustice has also denied that the earlier introduction of wider testing at care homes would have saved lives.
Asked if tests not being available earlier for care home workers had cost lives, he told BBC Breakfast: ‘I don’t think it is in that we’ve been working very very closely with the care sector and they have had very clear protocols in place.
‘Because those staff are dealing with obviously very vulnerable cohort, the elderly, sometimes people with other conditions, if they are showing any symptoms at all then they must not be at work.
‘Obviously testing does help and we’re now able to roll that testing out.’
Who can get tested for coronavirus in Britain and how can they do it?
Tests for coronavirus will be rolled out to residents and staff in care homes, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
In a bid to reach its target of 100,000 tests a day, the Government has dramatically expanded the list of people who are eligible for coronavirus tests in England.
Earlier this month, key workers and anyone in their household were able to access testing if they were showing symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was on track to meet the goal of 100,000 tests a day and now had the capacity to carry out more than 70,000 tests a day.
Here is what you need to know about who is eligible for tests and where to access them:
– Who can be tested?
The Government has said that the priority will still be to test patients, but in England essential workers with symptoms of coronavirus and the people who live with essential workers and have symptoms were able to get tested from Friday.
From Wednesday, testing will be available to all frontline workers in health and social care, even if they are not displaying symptoms.
Testing will also be expanded to NHS patients and residents in care homes regardless of whether they have symptoms.
All other essential workers, and the people they live with, can get tested if they have symptoms.
People aged over 65 and their households can get tested if they are showing symptoms, as well as anyone who goes into work because they cannot work from home and their households if they have symptoms.
Mr Hancock said: ‘From construction workers to emergency plumbers, from research scientists to those in manufacturing, the expansion of access to testing will protect the most vulnerable and help keep people safe.’
– What are essential workers?
The Government has published a list of essential workers which includes all NHS and social care staff from doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers and carers to support staff and supply chain workers.
Workers such as teachers, firefighters, local and national government staff, supermarket staff, police and delivery drivers are just some of the other roles included on the list.
– How do I arrange a test?
Essential workers can book for a test at one of more than 40 regional drive-through sites or request a home test kit.
However, the Government has stressed these kit numbers will initially be limited but ‘more will become available’.
Essential workers who are self-isolating can also be registered and referred for coronavirus testing by their employer.
Testing is most effective within three days of symptoms – a high temperature or new continuous cough – developing, Government guidelines state.
– Where will the tests take place?
The Government said it is planning to open 50 drive-through testing sites by the end of April, with the aim that most people will not have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a regional testing site.
Some 41 drive-through centres are currently in place with a further 48 going live this week, Mr Hancock said.
A delivery service for home testing kits has been designed with industry partners, including Royal Mail and Amazon.
Mr Hancock said the availability of home tests is expanding from 5,000 kits per day to 25,000 a day by the end of the week.
The Army is currently running 17 mobile testing centres which are travelling around the country, but the plan is to increase this to 70 by the end of the week, Mr Hancock said.
Packages of satellite test kits are being sent directly to care homes across England to enable testing of symptomatic residents.
– What does the test involve?
The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, and can be done by the person themselves or by someone else.
– What happens next?
Completed samples will be sent to a testing laboratory where they are analysed.
The Government said that it is aiming for tests from drive-through sites to be sent out by text within 48 hours and home testing kit results within 72 hours of collection.
People will be given advice on any next steps that need to be taken after receiving their results.