Boris Johnson urges New Year partygoers to take Covid test despite shortages


Boris Johnson has urged New Year partygoers to take lateral flow tests before heading out, despite the country being in the midst of a test shortage

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Boris Johnson urges UK to enjoy New Year ‘sensibly and cautiously’

Boris Johnson has urged New Year partygoers to take a Covid test before heading out, despite shortages across the UK.

The government has been left scrambling to secure supplies for Covid tests amongst a worldwide supply issue that has hit the UK ahead of the new year.

Talking to reporters, the Prime Minister said: “Everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way – take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster.”

In a call with Tory MPs, Health Secretary Sajid Javid set out the issue with such a testing goal, and acknowledged that there was no quick fix to the shortage that has seen people leaving local pharmacies empty handed.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, has said patients are often unable to find Covid-19 tests in chemists because of “patchy” and “inconsistent” supplies.

A woman taking a PCR test, of which there are shortages currently in the UK
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The Government website showed no PCR tests were available for home delivery – even for essential workers – in England or Northern Ireland, with “very few” in Scotland, while Wales had availability only in some regions.

Home delivery slots for lateral flow tests were also unavailable on Wednesday afternoon.

Officials acknowledged that during periods of exceptional demand there could be “temporary pauses” in ordering or receiving tests in an attempt to manage distribution across the system.

The reduced postal system over Christmas has also added to the issues.

Sir Roger Gale told PA that the Health Secretary had admitted to Tory MPs that there was a shortage of tests thanks in part to global demand

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is understood to temporarily pause the booking portal to limit the flow of tests into laboratories when there is “exceptionally high demand”.

Tory MP Sir Roger Gale told the PA news agency that Mr Javid had admitted there is a problem with supplies – previously ministers and officials had insisted they had sufficient stocks but the problems were in delivering them to people’s homes or pharmacies.

The North Thanet MP said: “Saj was very honest with me, he said, ‘look, there isn’t a quick fix’.”

The Government has encouraged regular testing as a way of keeping England’s economy open while the devolved administrations have closed nightclubs and taken other steps to limit social contact.

It was announced after Christmas that England would be the only nation in the UK which would not have restrictions over New Years Eve
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Tests are also being used to replace self-isolation for contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases, while people returning to work following the Christmas break has also added to demand.

Sir Roger said “we have created the demand in England which we now can’t satisfy” as a result.

He added: “The Prime Minister has now found himself caught between the Covid Recovery Group and supporters and the scientists.

“We are now facing the situation where No 10 is saying ‘go and get tested’ and the Department of Health is saying ‘we haven’t got the tests, we can’t do it’.”

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He said Mr Javid is “busting a gut” to get supplies “but we’re competing with a global market”.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.

“People are trying to do the right thing, follow the Government’s own advice, and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative Government’s incompetence.

“They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe.”

Covid rapid antigen tests can be used to get out of isolation early now, hence increased demand for them
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It comes as a further 183,037 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Wednesday, the Government said, another new record for daily reported cases. The total includes reported figures for Northern Ireland covering a five-day period.

A UKHSA spokesman said: “We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost eight million test kits being made available to pharmacies between today and New Year’s Eve.

“We have made 100,000 more PCR booking slots available per day since mid-December and we are continuing to rapidly expand capacity – with over half a million tests carried out on 23 December alone and delivery capacity doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day.

“If you have not been able to get the test you need from gov.uk, please keep checking every few hours as more PCR and LFD tests become available every day.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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