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Grant Shapps blames ‘distribution issues’ for lateral flow shortage

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Grand Shapps today blamed ‘distribution issues’ on the lack of lateral flow tests as the government website revealed delivery slots had run out and pharmacies were told they couldn’t have extra swabs despite entire cities running out.  

In an uncomfortable interview with Sky News, Grant Shapps claimed there are enough lateral flow tests to go around – despite the Government’s own website saying there were ‘no tests available to order for home delivery’.

Instead he said the issue had been getting the tests out to people. Mr Shapps said health chiefs were working with Royal Mail, Amazon and other delivery firms to get tests out to homes and pharmacies. 

Squirming as he answered a question from Sky’s Kay Burley on the issue, he said: ‘Just on lateral flow tests, which actually, uniquely, in that as far as I can see there aren’t other countries that have been supplying these free of charge to their citizens, major economies haven’t generally been doing this, and we have in this country, you are right, particularly since the new measures, the booster programme, asking people to be testing, came in, it can be difficult at different times of day to get those.

In an uncomfortable interview with Sky News, Grant Shapps claimed there are enough lateral flow tests to go around - despite the Government's own website saying there were 'no tests available to order for home delivery'

In an uncomfortable interview with Sky News, Grant Shapps claimed there are enough lateral flow tests to go around – despite the Government’s own website saying there were ‘no tests available to order for home delivery’

Instead he said the issue had been getting the tests out to people. Mr Shapps said health chiefs were working with Royal Mail, Amazon and other delivery firms to get tests out to homes and pharmacies

‘I did notice yesterday actually that at certain times of day you could get them, they are coming back in.

‘There’s plenty of supply in the country, what we are having issues with is the distribution route. 

‘And I know my colleagues at the health department are working with Amazon and Royal Mail and others to try and make sure that distribution gets out and still goes to pharmacies.’  

Boris Johnson’s testing system collapsed yesterday with no free NHS PCR tests available anywhere in England for a time and lateral flow tests still out of stock online for the second day running for everyone in the UK.

The Government’s Plan B relies on rapid and regular testing to avoid mandatory quarantine – and critics fear the crisis could lead to more restrictions or even a post-Christmas lockdown.

The new chaos came on the last day Britons can test positive for coronavirus and be out of quarantine for Christmas Day.

This morning the Government’s website showed that PCR tests are now available to people in England. 

The NHS' website showed no PCR tests available in all of England yesterday. Tests returned this afternoon but are still in short supply

The NHS’ website showed no PCR tests available in all of England yesterday. Tests returned this afternoon but are still in short supply

Experts said the shortage of tests doesn’t ‘bode well’ when Boris Johnson predicts a ‘huge spike’ of cases within days, piling even more pressure on the UK’s testing system.

UK Health Security Agency sources told the BBC the shortage ‘was due to exceptionally high demand’. 

Downing Street yesterday insisted there is significant testing capacity despite suggestions of difficulties finding PCR tests.

A spokesman said: ‘Appointments for PCR tests are available, but high demand can lead to temporary reduced availability in some areas. More appointments are made available to book every afternoon.

‘Testing is playing an integral role in keeping people safe and managing the virus and we’re so grateful to everyone that’s getting tested to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. Everyone with symptoms or who is directed to get a PCR test should continue to come forward to get a test delivered to their home or at a test site.’ 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘In terms of PCR availability, I don’t have the latest but I would envisage further booking possibilities will come online later and, of course, there are in-person opportunities as well.’

It came as millions of Britons told to use daily lateral flow tests to slow the spread of Omicron from today still can’t get them online for the second day running with Amazon now brought in to bail out Royal Mail in the run up to Christmas.

Greenwich Council’s Labour leader Danny Thorpe, whose borough has one of the highest Omicron rates in the country, tweeted: ‘Residents had issues getting a #LateralFlowTest & today it looks like no #PCR tests available? @sajidjavid – what on earth is going on? This really needs sorting today’.

NHS staff working in hospitals, mental health properties, care homes and GP surgeries have also said they cannot get tests – stopping them doing their jobs – because they are also being told to use the same website as the public. 

 

 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘In terms of PCR availability, I don’t have the latest but I would envisage further booking possibilities will come online later and, of course, there are in-person opportunities as well.’

It came as millions of Britons told to use daily lateral flow tests to slow the spread of Omicron from today still can’t get them online for the second day running with Amazon now brought in to bail out Royal Mail in the run up to Christmas.

Greenwich Council’s Labour leader Danny Thorpe, whose borough has one of the highest Omicron rates in the country, tweeted: ‘Residents had issues getting a #LateralFlowTest & today it looks like no #PCR tests available? @sajidjavid – what on earth is going on? This really needs sorting today’.

NHS staff working in hospitals, mental health properties, care homes and GP surgeries have also said they cannot get tests – stopping them doing their jobs – because they are also being told to use the same website as the public.

‘Looks like Christmas in isolation for me’: Devastated Britons reveal their festive plans have been left in tatters after testing positive for Covid 10 days before December 25

Britons across the country today revealed their disappointment at having to spend Christmas Day in isolation this year after testing positive for Covid-19, meaning they must stay at home for the next ten days.

People tweeted pictures of positive lateral flow tests and said they were ‘feeling sorry for myself’ and ‘Merry Xmas to me’, amid claims more than 1million people are likely to be isolating with Covid on their own on December 25. 

According to official estimates, the speed at which the Omicron variant is spreading means that four times more people are likely to be isolating with Covid this Christmas than last December 25, when household mixing was banned across much of the country and a third national shutdown was imminent.

Anyone becoming ill from today onwards will still be in the required ten-day isolation period on Christmas Day.

Yesterday there were more than 4,700 confirmed Omicron cases, and Ministers claim the number is doubling every two days. At this rate, almost 100,000 people will be confirmed with Omicron on Christmas Eve, and around 1million will be isolating the next day. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs that even if Omicron turned out to be less severe than the Delta variant, the fact it spreads so easily meant ‘it still has the potential to overwhelm the NHS’.

He told Ministers that modellers believe Omicron cases may already be running at ‘200,000 a day’ and ‘doubling every two to three days’. However, some experts have cast doubt on the figure, which is far higher than the official Covid total and which is based on disputed mathematical modelling. Downing Street insisted the projection was ‘valid’. 

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned the Cabinet during an update yesterday that the new Omicron variant was spreading ‘unbelievably fast’.  

Prof Whitty also warned Ministers that astronomical infection rates will spark staff shortages in pubs, restaurants and shops – sparking concerns of a repeat of the so-called ‘pingdemic’ that led to the shutdown of whole swathes of the economy over the summer.

He also said the wave would trigger a ‘significant increase in hospitalisations’. Scary Government modelling predicted that hospital admissions could exceed levels seen during the January lockdown, when 4,000 infected patients were needing medical care every day. In response, NHS bosses yesterday ordered hospitals to discharge as many patients as possible off wards and into care homes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Cabinet on Tuesday that a ‘huge spike in Omicron is coming’ and warned a ‘huge spike’ in the variant was coming. Public health officials warned that restrictions could last up to eight weeks.

 

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