Coronavirus home testing kits ran out again in just over an hour after being made available again on the new Government website for the fourth day in a row today.
More than ten million essential workers and their households are now eligible for Covid-19 checks as officials race to hit their 100,000-a-day tests target by Thursday.
But as of 9.05am today home testing kits for England were listed as ‘unavailable’ on the gov.uk/coronavirus website – some 65 minutes after booking slots reopened.
It comes as people attending test centres over the weekend reported waiting times of up to three hours, and a care home operator in Yorkshire which had two residents die with coronavirus said it has been waiting ten days for testing kits to arrive.
Home testing kits were unavailable as of 9.05am today, although people could still book drive-through tests in England and Scotland as of noon – but not in Wales or Northern Ireland
After the new website was launched last Friday morning, slots for both home-testing and drive-through centres in England have been used up within the first few hours.
People could still book drive-through tests in England and Scotland as of midday today, but slots in were listed as unavailable in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Timeline of the virus testing website launch
- 6am: Government’s new coronavirus testing website launches
- 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
Under the expansion of the testing, NHS and social care staff, police officers, teachers, social workers, undertakers, journalists and those who work in supermarkets and food production are among those now eligible.
Test booking slots or home testing kits will become available from 8am each day, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said, with their release staggered throughout the day.
The Government is ‘working hard’ to increase the availability of Covid-19 tests through the online service, according to a DHSC spokesman, who added: ‘There has been significant demand for booking tests.
Meanwhile a mother-of-two from Yeovil, Somerset, said she and her partner, who works for the Ministry of Defence, spent three hours queuing at a testing centre in Exeter on Saturday.
Cee-Jay McGregor, 35, told MailOnline: ‘We waited three hours in the end. We haven’t had any results yet. People were waiting so long that, despite being told not to so much as open their car window, they were having to use on site toilets being escorted around the site without personal protective equipment.
‘The actual swab test takes less than a minute, so the efficiency of the centre is the main issue.’
Elsewhere, a care home operator which had two residents die with coronavirus has been waiting 10 days for testing kits to arrive, its healthcare director said today.
A photograph released by the Ministry of Defence today showing a Marine from Plymouth-based 42 Commando giving advice to keep social distancing protocol at a test site in Salisbury
A photograph released by the MoD today shows a person dropping a completed self test kit into a collection box at a mobile coronavirus testing unit in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Vida Healthcare provides specialist support for up to 194 residents living with dementia across its two care homes in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Who are essential workers and how can they get tested?
Key workers and anyone in their household are now eligible for tests if they have symptoms of coronavirus. But who are essential workers and how can they get tested?
– Who can be tested?
Essential workers in England with symptoms of coronavirus and the people who live with essential workers and have symptoms can now be tested as of last Friday. Essential workers who are self-isolating have been able to be registered and referred for testing by their employer since last Thursday.
– 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 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 an appointment at one of more than 30 regional drive-through test site or being sent a home test kit. But these kit numbers are limited, so the Government is encouraging people to attend a regional test site if they can.
– 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.
– 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.
Healthcare director Bernadette Mossman has spoken of the difficulties faced in securing Covid-19 tests for residents and staff showing symptoms of the disease.
She said one employee had been forced to go to Manchester to get tested on Sunday, while others travelled to testing sites in Hull.
The care homes, which employ about 450 staff across two sites, has also been waiting 10 days for six testing kits after the first consignment sent by Public Health England (PHE) were never delivered.
Ms Mossman said: ‘The biggest issue has been delivery of home testing kits to the home. We have had a delay with that and that’s been unfortunate.’
She said a ‘number’ of staff had tested positive for Covid-19, including several in the past couple of weeks.
In regard to residents, Ms Mossman said: ‘We have had two positive tests in the whole home, but we have not had many tests. We suspect there was probably potentially more residents that had the coronavirus symptoms.’
Five residents have been tested in total so far. Of those, two came back positive and died in hospital in March.
Speaking about the measures the care home takes if a resident shows symptoms, Ms Mossman said: ‘For people living with dementia, self isolation can be a struggle because if they can’t retain that information it can be very difficult.
‘We try to encourage residents to remain in their room and self isolate. If that’s not possible, all of our staff are having to wear sessional PPE [personal protective equipment] for the whole day, and change when they are delivering interventions to residents.’
But she said residents had ’embraced’ the situation thanks to staff making life as normal as possible for them.
The care homes have also introduced two new static bikes for residents, which feature digital screens showing videos of scenic routes across the world.
‘It’s given those people the chance to have that sense of wellbeing and exercise, which is much needed at this time,’ Ms Mossman added.
Dr Mike Gent, deputy director of health protection at PHE Yorkshire and the Humber, said: ‘We are advising Vida Grange Care Home on an outbreak of Covid-19 and have had regular contact with them since their first case was confirmed in March.
‘The Government has since committed to testing all symptomatic care home residents and staff and this is being arranged for the home.’
Dr Gent said when an outbreak is confirmed in a care home, PHE’s health protection teams provide advice to minimise transmission.
Mother-of-two Cee-Jay McGregor, 35, of Yeovil, Somerset, said she and her partner, who works for the Ministry of Defence, spent three hours queuing at a testing centre in Exeter on Saturday
‘Additional confirmed cases do not change the public health advice once an outbreak is already confirmed in a care home,’ he said.
It is understood that PHE has resent the home testing kits.
It comes as a Government scientific adviser said up to 100,000 Covid-19 tests per day could be needed as part of a widespread testing and tracking strategy.
Professor Peter Horby, chairman of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which is advising ministers, said the Government’s plans to move into tracking and tracing future coronavirus patients would be a ‘real logistical challenge’.
The opening day of Dorset’s coronavirus drive-through testing centre at the former Creekmoor park-and-ride facility in Poole today
Dorset’s coronavirus drive-through centre at a former park-and-ride facility in Poole today
Workers at the opening day of Dorset’s coronavirus drive-through testing centre in Poole today
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The test and trace capabilities are really going to be critical as we come out of lockdown.
‘We will have to be able to test all those people (declaring via apps that they are displaying symptoms) and it is really a matter of scale and speed.
‘One issue is how many tests we need, and if we are looking at 1,000 to 5,000 new cases per day of people with symptoms, of which maybe 5 to 25 per cent may have Covid, then you are talking about 25,000 to 100,000 tests per day.
‘It is a real logistical challenge. But there is also the issue of speed as well.
‘It is not much use getting the results five days later – you need it quickly so you can take the appropriate action and advise people to stay at home and also their contacts to stay at home to reduce transmission.’
He said such a testing and tracking strategy – also known as testing and contact tracing – would rely on the numbers of new cases being driven down.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is only by driving down the number of new cases that widespread testing and contact tracing will be effective.
Meanwhile the British Medical Association (BMA) said NHS staff need greater access to tests after slots offered to key workers ran out for the third day in a row on Sunday.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, said the online booking system ‘offered no practical help’ to healthcare workers.
‘There is no point putting forward a proposal unless its matched with adequate capacity,’ he said.
‘What we found in the first two days was that within an hour the bookings had all been taken up, and therefore offered no practical help for large numbers of healthcare staff, who found the website had effectively closed to bookings.
‘If the Government wants healthcare workers to have access to the test, it has to be in the context or providing adequate capacity, not a ‘first come, first served’ and closing within an hour.’
He added: ‘That’s not delivering on the needs of our health and care staff.’
Dr Nagpaul said the current testing capacity is ‘well, well short’ of the number of healthcare staff who are currently self-isolating, as he called on the Government to go further than the target.
‘Our estimate is that there are about 90,000 health and care staff self-isolating based upon the Government figures of absence rates,’ he said.
‘With that in mind, if they all wanted to have a test, clearly capacity has to match that number on that assumption.’