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Coronavirus UK: 46,000 key workers try to book a test as checks run out in minutes

How do you arrange a coronavirus test? 

ARRANGING YOUR OWN

Essential workers who are self-isolating can book a test directly here. You can select a regional test site drive-through appointment or home test kit.

The Department of Health said home test kit availability will initially be limited but more will become available. However, it said there is good availability of regional test sites.

Those who face problems on the website can call the service desk on 0300 303 2713, from 8am to 8pm.

BEING REFERRED FOR ONE

Another way essential workers can get tested is by being referred by their employer through a new portal, if they are already self-isolating. 

It is a secure portal for employers to use to upload the full list of names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers.

If referred, essential workers will get a text message with a unique code to book a test for themselves or family members at a regional testing site. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps tonight revealed 46,000 people tried to book a coronavirus test on the government’s new website this morning as checks ran out in minutes. 

Millions of key workers now face a rush to secure a test tomorrow morning at 8am with some 5,000 home kits and 19,000 drive-through tests expected to be made available. 

The website went live at 8am today, offering people two options: to book one of just 5,000 home testing kits or apply for a slot at a drive-through site.

Ten million key workers and their households are now eligible for the tests, but all applications shut at 10am – two hours after opening – with the website saying people could no longer register.

Key workers had been told at 8.30am that today’s allocation of home kits had already been allocated, and they could only ask for drive-through tests. Officials said about 19,000 drive-through tests were booked between 8am and 10am this morning. 

Mr Shapps told the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference that reports the website had crashed were not accurate and it was ‘simply that the slots for today were taken up’.

He insisted the government is confident every key worker who needs a test will soon be able to access one as ministers strive to hit a 100,000 daily tests target by the end of April. 

‘We know what the capacity is, we don’t quite know how many people would want to be tested because many people working for the NHS for example will have already accessed those tests through their work places,’ he said. 

Mr Shapps said things will soon ‘settle down’ after ‘46,000 people went to the portal first thing today’. 

‘There are some more slots opening up right now as I am speaking and there will be more slots tomorrow and in the days after,’ he added.

Ministers say that UK testing capacity is currently at 51,000 a day – including tests within the NHS and care homes – and they are hoping to be able to provide 18,000 home test kits by the end of April. 

No 10 said 5,000 home kits – the total on offer – were ordered online this morning. Ministers expected another 15,000 tests to take place at drive-through sites today. 

Under the scheme, test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.  

Separately, key workers who are self-isolating can also now get tested by being referred by their employer through a new portal, which went live at midnight. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed this evening that some 46,000 people had tried to book a coronavirus test this morning

Applications for tests shut at 10am, with the website saying people could no longer register

Applications for tests shut at 10am, with the website saying people could no longer register

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at Downing Street in Westminster this morning

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at Downing Street in Westminster this morning

The website had already been telling key workers as early as 8.30am today that today's allocation of home kits had been issued - and they could only apply for drive-through testing

The website had already been telling key workers as early as 8.30am today that today’s allocation of home kits had been issued – and they could only apply for drive-through testing

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘Within two minutes of the portal opening this morning, 5,000 testing kits had been ordered. And that’s the available capacity for today.’ 

Number 10 also said the Government is trusting that those applying for tests are key workers, with no eligibility checks in place for online bookings. 

The spokesman said: ‘As with many other aspects of the coronavirus response, we would expect the public to respond in good faith. 

‘That is what they have done with other aspects of the scheme, I think we’d expect it to be the same here.’

Timeline of the key worker testing website’s launch today

TODAY

  • 8am: New online system for booking coronavirus tests for key workers goes live
  • 8.02am: 5,000 home test kits are all taken up
  • 8.30am: Website says it is no longer taking home test kit orders
  • 10am: 19,000 drive-through test appointments are taken up

TOMORROW

  • 8am: Another 5,000 home test kits and 19,000 drive-through test appointements go live

On testing for other groups, they added: ‘We want the capacity that we have in the system to be used and you can see this morning that the system is working, people are booking slots and now they are going to be able to undergo tests.’

Asked whether the Government was confident people would be able to test themselves accurately with a kit sent to their homes, the spokesman added: ‘There are videos available to show people how to do this and people will be given clear instructions. We would hope they would be able to do this, yes.’

Earlier, some people took to Twitter to complain that the process was ‘not simple’ or that they could not find a category for their job role, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock claiming the process was straightforward and ‘a bit like booking a flight’. 

And some users got an error message saying there is a ‘problem with your order’, asking them to contact the system’s service desk on a freephone number. It comes after the Government revealed coding for the website was only finished yesterday.  

Some people got an error message saying there is a 'problem with your order', asking them to contact the service desk on a freephone number

Some people got an error message saying there is a ‘problem with your order’, asking them to contact the service desk on a freephone number 

The first stage of the coronavirus testing application on the gov.uk website is pictured above

The first stage of the coronavirus testing application on the gov.uk website is pictured above

Key workers were asked whether they wanted to visit a regional site or request a home test kit

Key workers were asked whether they wanted to visit a regional site or request a home test kit

A DoH spokesman tweeted at about 11am today: ‘There has been significant demand for booking tests today. We apologise for any inconvenience. We are continuing to rapidly increase availability. More tests will be available tomorrow.’

Mr Hancock said that people whose work is critical to the Covid-19 response, and those they live with, will be able to register for a test if they have symptoms.

NHS staff, police officers, teachers, social workers, undertakers, journalists and those who work in supermarkets and food production are among those eligible.

But among those failing to get a test was MailOnline reader Merida, 39, of Glasgow, who said: ‘I applied one minute after midnight and never got texted.

‘We keep reapplying and get nothing sent to us. My husband is a teacher, I have potentially had Covid and still do after five or six weeks. This is ridiculous.

Testers wearing personal protective equipment at work at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at a branch of Ikea in Wembley, North London, this afternoon

Testers wearing personal protective equipment at work at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at a branch of Ikea in Wembley, North London, this afternoon

Staff direct cars at the drive-through coronavirus testing site in Wembley, North London, today

Staff direct cars at the drive-through coronavirus testing site in Wembley, North London, today

A nurse prepares to take a sample at a Covid-19 testing centre in the car park of the Bowhouse Community Centre in Grangemouth this afternoon

A nurse prepares to take a sample at a Covid-19 testing centre in the car park of the Bowhouse Community Centre in Grangemouth this afternoon

‘We have a three-year-old who cannot go to nursery because of all of this. Wasting hundreds of pounds a month.

‘Cannot get Universal Credit due to husband’s income, I lost business due to Covid and no help as business is 11 months old. We needed that test.’

Chessington testing centre ‘loses results of some NHS staff’

A privately run drive though coroanvirus testing centre at Chessington World of Adventures reportedly lost NHS staff results and sent some to the wrong address.

The facility at the Surrey theme park, run by accountancy firm Deloitte, also was not able to contact workers with their diagnosis because they recorded incorrect phone numbers, it is claimed.

The Department for Health said last night that 49 medics had faced delays and 39 had now got their results. Officials are still investigating the remaining number. 

Deloitte said it was hired to oversee the facility to ‘help accelerate and scale testing capacity’ but there are now calls for it to be taken out of its control, the Guardian reports. 

In an email sent earlier this month and seen by the Guardian, the chief executive of Epsom hospital said: ‘Deloitte who have been commissioned by the Department of Health directly for this are not running this as well as we would like.

She later added at 11am: ‘Just got the text and found a slot for tomorrow. Took hours though. Very bizarre.’

And mother-of-two Kama Phillips, from Plymouth, Devon, tweeted: ‘Tried to book a Covid test as I’m classed as a key worker and  can send my children to school as our hardware store has been classed as essential and wasn’t allowed to shut.

‘When trying to book there’s no category for my job role, so which is it? What category should I fall under?’

Twitter user Phill Dunn added: ‘Not a simple process to book an essential worker Covid-19 test. Website sends you around all avenues, never did find the link.’

And Darren Peers tweeted: ‘It’s so hard to arrange a test on gov.uk. My wife is an essential worker who is a courier and her workload has doubled.

‘She is self employed and there is no option for this also to include your family. There is only an option for employers.’

Meanwhile there were claims that the drive-through testing centre at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey had lost some test results of NHS staff.

Results were also allegedly sent to the wrong person, with some doctors and nurses raising the alarm when their results never arrived, reported the Guardian.

There were also claims by the newspaper that the test centre could not call through with the diagnosis because it had failed to record correct phone numbers.

Key workers are tested for Covid-19 at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey today

Key workers are tested for Covid-19 at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey today

A man wearing protective gloves gestures at the Covid-19 testing centre in Chessington today

A man wearing protective gloves gestures at the Covid-19 testing centre in Chessington today

A member of the military conducts a coronavirus disease test in Chessington today

A member of the military conducts a coronavirus disease test in Chessington today

A worker at the Chessington site wearing gloves walks through the car park this morning

A worker at the Chessington site wearing gloves walks through the car park this morning

Medical workers conduct coronavirus disease tests at the Chessington site this morning

Medical workers conduct coronavirus disease tests at the Chessington site this morning

A soldier takes a test of someone driving in to be swabbed for the virus at Chessington today

A soldier takes a test of someone driving in to be swabbed for the virus at Chessington today

An empty drive-through testing station in the car park at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol today

An empty drive-through testing station in the car park at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol today

A medical worker tests a key worker for the coronavirus at a Manchester Airport car park today

A medical worker tests a key worker for the coronavirus at a Manchester Airport car park today

A sign at a testing centre in the Bowhouse Community Centre car park in Grangemouth today

A sign at a testing centre in the Bowhouse Community Centre car park in Grangemouth today

The Department for Health said last night that 49 people had faced delays and 39 had now got their results. 

Government under fire over test and trace programme as scientists say UK will need ‘up to 100,000’ contact tracing staff – a lot more than the 18,000 announced by Matt Hancock 

The government’s plan to launch a ‘test, track and trace’ programme to stop the future spread of coronavirus is under fire after scientists said it will require up to five times as many staff as currently envisaged.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that some 18,000 staff will be put in place as part of the mass-testing scheme. 

But health experts today pointed to the staffing levels of similar schemes already in operation in countries like China, Germany and South Korea and suggested the UK will actually need as many as 100,000 tracing staff.  

The successful implementation of ‘test, track and trace’ is viewed as key to easing the current state of lockdown and to preventing a second peak. 

The aim of the programme will be to identify people who have the disease and then figure out within 24 hours at least 80 per cent of the people they have recently come into contact with. 

All those identified will then also be tested and told to self-isolate in order to keep infection levels as low as possible. The government is aiming to get to 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of the month. 

The 18,000 people Mr Hancock has said will staff the ‘test, track and trace’ programme will include 3,000 health professionals who will be tasked with stopping outbreaks in critical settings like hospitals. 

But some scientists believe the remaining 15,000 contact tracers tasked with testing society as a whole will not be enough.

Professor Azeem Majeed, head of public health at Imperial College London, told The Telegraph: ‘We need to use this lockdown to recruit large numbers of contact tracers, so we have a large scale programme in place as soon as possible.

‘If you look at Wuhan in China, they recruited 9,000 contact tracers for 11 million people. We need to look at large volumes of contact tracers, not just a few hundred or a few thousand. We need tens of thousands, maybe even 100,000 to do contact tracing.’  

Officials are still investigating the remaining number.

The site has been operated privately by the accounting firm Deloitte, which said it was hired to ‘help accelerate and scale testing capacity’. 

The announcement over testing came as researchers at the University of Oxford began human trials for a potential coronavirus vaccine candidate. 

In other news:

  • The number of people who have died with coronavirus in UK hospitals rose by 638 to 18,738 as at 5pm on Wednesday, but the total toll is likely to be several thousand higher when those who have died in care homes and the community are included.
  • Ministers came under further pressure to set out the Government’s lockdown exit strategy after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the lifting of restrictions north of the border would be a phased process.
  • US president Donald Trump said Boris Johnson sounded ‘ready to go’ when they spoke on the phone this week, following reports in the Telegraph that the Prime Minister is preparing to return to work on Monday.
  • Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford will on Friday set out seven key questions which will determine when restrictions can be lifted.
  • The Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the evidence on face masks ‘has always been quite variable, quite weak and difficult to know’, as ministers review the recommendations of Sage, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.
  • Two RAF aircraft carrying mostly gowns but also masks and gloves arrived from Turkey at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Thursday night and early on Friday morning.
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children joined in the nationwide weekly clap for carers on Thursday, as more than £27 million was donated during BBC One’s charity special The Big Night In, with the Government promising to double the total.

Mr Hancock said the new online booking system will be key to the Government reaching its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day by the end of the month.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: ‘Not as many people have been coming for (a test) as we had expected.

‘Of course that was a problem but it’s a good problem because it means we’ve been able to expand who can get a test faster than we had planned.’

A Government spokesman tweeted shortly after 11am that there had been 'significant demand'

A Government spokesman tweeted shortly after 11am that there had been ‘significant demand’

Mr Hancock said results of the Covid-19 test for most people would be available within 24 hours, but for some it would take a little longer.

* Did you have trouble getting a test today? Email: tips@dailymail.com *

He said the Government was also introducing home test kits that are then collected by a courier to prevent people having to travel long distances.

‘They will start in small numbers but that service will grow, and I think that will be a popular service as it increasingly becomes available.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV's Good Morning Britain today (above) that he was 'carefully' watching to ensure the website could handle the expected online traffic

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told ITV’s Good Morning Britain today (above) that he was ‘carefully’ watching to ensure the website could handle the expected online traffic

Mr Hancock said there had been fewer people coming forward for a test than expected, but blamed this on the complexity of the booking process before the new online system was introduced.

Who are essential workers and how can they get tested for Covid-19?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that key workers and anyone in their household will now be eligible for tests if they have symptoms of coronavirus.

But who are essential workers and how can they get tested?

– 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 will be able to be tested from Friday. Essential workers who are self-isolating can also be registered and referred for coronavirus testing by their employer from Thursday. Testing is most effective within three days of symptoms – a high temperature or new continuous cough – developing, the Government added.

– 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 will be able to enter their details at www.gov.uk/coronavirus and then receive an email or text the same day inviting them to book at test. They will be able to choose between booking an appointment at one of more than 30 regional drive-through test site or being sent a home test kit. But the Government has stressed these kit numbers will initially be limited, so it is encouraging people to attend a regional test site if they can. People who cannot go online can book a test through their employer, Mr Hancock said.

– 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. A delivery service for home testing kits has been designed with industry partners, including Royal Mail and Amazon. A network of new mobile testing units designed by Army engineers is being set up to travel to care homes, police stations, prisons and other sites where there is demand for testing. Packages of satellite test kits will also be 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.

‘Previously you had to go through your employer because we didn’t have this IT system in place.

‘All of this was being built as we go and the IT for the system we launched today only got finished yesterday.’

He added: ‘(Previously) you had to go through your employer and your employer then had to apply – now you can just go online.’

Mr Hancock said employers can still book on behalf of their staff if that is the easiest route.

Mr Hancock also said today that the contact tracing operation would be functioning in a ‘matter of weeks’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It will be up and running in a matter of weeks and the 18,000 we plan to recruit is really just the start.

‘Because the combination of mass testing and contact tracing alongside it, both with people doing the contact tracing and with technology, a new app that will help to identify who people have been close to – these things are so crucial to holding down the rate and level of transmission of the disease.

‘They work far better when there are fewer new cases but, if they work as they have done in other countries, then they will be able to hold down the number of new cases with fewer social distancing restrictions, which is why they are so important to get in place in large scale.’

Earlier on Good Morning Britain, Mr Hancock said he was ‘carefully’ watching to ensure the website could handle the expected online traffic.

He said: ‘As with all ‘switch-ons’ of IT systems, that’s always a moment when you’re running it that you concentrate on it very carefully, shall I put it that way?

‘That switch-on has gone live this morning.’

Mr Hancock added that the number of test centres available was being expanded from 30 to 50 and said a home testing kit would become available.

He said: ‘We are also introducing home tests, in small numbers at first, and we will ramp that up so you can get the test posted to your home, you self-administer it – you follow a video that is on the internet and the instructions on the test – a courier then comes and picks up your test, takes it back to our labs and you get the result.

‘We are absolutely dealing with that access issue.’

Mr Hancock set out his plans for ‘easier, faster and simpler’ testing so that more people can access a Covid-19 test to tell them whether they have the virus.

He said people can register for a test on the gov.uk website.

People will then receive a text or email with an appointment at a drive-through centre or can request a home test kit, although the latter are currently in limited supply.

A help desk has been established to aid the process, while mobile units run by the Army are travelling around the country to where they are needed, such as care homes.

Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.

At the daily Downing Street briefing, Mr Hancock said the capacity for carrying out tests was now ‘ahead of our plans’, with the ability to carry out more than 51,000 tests a day.

‘Because capacity has now increased so substantially, we are now able to expand who can get the tests,’ he said.

‘Our ultimate goal is that everyone who could benefit from a test gets a test.’

Essential workers will be able to book coronavirus tests direct, while companies will also be able to book them for employees.

It comes as the UK marked a month in lockdown this week, with a review of the restrictions next due to take place on May 7.

* Did you have trouble getting a test today? Email: tips@dailymail.com * 

Shutdown measures could delay data gathering for Covid-19 vaccine

The success of the Government’s shutdown measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 may hamper the process of gathering data to develop a vaccine, a scientist leading clinical trials has said.

Volunteers cannot be deliberately exposed to the virus due to the risk to their lives, meaning scientists have to wait until they encounter it in the community to record the results.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: ‘Of course there isn’t very much virus around in the community at the moment – the lockdown has had a big impact on transmission.

‘So it is difficult to predict exactly when they will meet the virus and it may be some months before that happens.’

So far just two volunteers are involved in the preliminary stages of human testing – one injected with a Covid-19 vaccine candidate and the other with a meningitis vaccine as a control.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Prof Pollard said because so little is known about Covid-19, scientists could not deliberately expose the volunteers to the virus.

‘You are potentially putting those people at risk and we know people who have had large exposure to the virus, some have become extremely unwell – including some young people,’ he said.

‘At this moment we don’t have a treatment for coronavirus so we would have to do this extremely carefully.’

Unlike other diseases, there is not yet a ‘human model’ for Covid-19, meaning scientists do not know what is a safe dose to give volunteers in vaccine trials.

Medics say that as with other viruses, the level of exposure a patient has to the virus can also dictate how severely they are affected.

Prof Pollard said: ‘You also want to get some consistency in the dose people are exposed to.

‘For example if you gave a much bigger dose to the people in the control group and they all got the disease and a much lower dose to the people in the group with the vaccine, you could make your vaccine look very good without it actually working.’

He said it would be many months before every stage of clinical trials has been completed, and then another huge task to scale up production to manufacture the volume of doses required to give herd immunity.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged the lockdown’s impact on the gathering of vaccine data.

But he said letting ‘the virus rip in order to test the vaccine’ was not an approach that anybody would recommend.

Prof Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, has also warned against the public pinning their hopes on a vaccine to lift the lockdown any time soon.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, he said the prospect of having a vaccine or an effective treatment in the next calendar year were ‘incredibly small’.

‘I think we should be realistic about that, we’re going to have to rely on other social measures, which of course are very socially disruptive as everyone is finding at the moment,’ he said.

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