Lateral flow tests unavailable for home delivery for a second day running may affect the Government’s plans for milder restrictions over New Year’s celebrations.
Yesterday, the Government announced it would not go ahead with more stringent Covid restrictions, instead allowing pubs and nightclubs to open for New Year’s Eve, as well as other mass events.
But that same day, the Government’s website stated that it was not possible to order lateral flow testing kits for home delivery, with the UK Health Security Agency citing ‘unprecedented demand’ for the shortage.
Today, the same message appeared stating: ‘Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now.
‘You may still be able to pick up rapid lateral flow tests from a pharmacy or collection point, where these are available. Only pick up tests if you do not have symptoms.’
Pharmacies across the country have reported shortages of LFTs and many are unable to replenish their kits as the supply chain has been affected by Christmas and New Year holidays.
Some pharmacies reported they have not had stock since last Monday and it could take three days for new supplies to arrive
Today, the same message has appeared as yesterday, stating : ‘Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now’
Britons can pick up lateral flow tests for free from a pharmacy listed on the NHS website
The most up-to-date figures reveal there were 842 Covid patients in intensive care on ventilators – the lowest level in two months
Speaking to broadcasters about New Year celebrations this afternoon, Care Minister Gillian Keegan said: ‘We have always said ”act cautiously” since this new variant came among us.
‘It is highly infectious and many people will know people who have caught this over the Christmas period.
‘So do be cautious, take a Lateral Flow Test (LFT) before you go out. Go to well-ventilated areas – I have been to a couple of outdoor parties actually, people have moved things to outside.
‘So just be cautious, but do try to enjoy yourself as well – but cautiously.’
Appointments for PCR tests are now available after shortages in England yesterday as the UK Health Security Agency insisted the reduced availability was merely ‘temporary’.
A UKHSA spokesperson encouraged members of the public to revisit the Government website every few hours.
‘Despite unprecedented demand, we are continuing to supply millions of rapid lateral flow tests every day. Our total delivery capacity has doubled to 900,000 test kits per day since Saturday 18 December so more people can order tests.
‘During periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements for lateral flow device and PCR tests, and delivery capacity was reduced over Christmas and the bank holiday.’
People had been encouraged to pick up tests from their local pharmacies as the message reminds people that they cannot order tests from NHS 111 or 999 numbers.
The government website also suggested: ‘If you have tests at home, including ones that children have brought home from school, you can use these instead.’
It also said that the 119 service ‘does not have access to more home delivery slots right now’.
A UKHSA spokesperson said: ‘Despite unprecedented demand, we are continuing to supply millions of rapid lateral flow tests every day.
‘Our total delivery capacity has doubled to 900,000 test kits per day since Saturday 18 December so more people can order tests.
‘During periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements for LFD and PCR tests, and delivery capacity was reduced over Christmas and the bank holiday.
‘Rapid tests are available to order directly to people’s homes via gov.uk and availability is refreshed regularly throughout the day.
‘We encourage people to re-visit the site every few hours if they are unable to order tests as more will become available – and to please ensure they are making use of any tests they already have at home before ordering or collecting more.’
UK Government statistics show how the number of Covid tests being conducted has reached 1.5m a day, with the number of swabs carried out having increased massively since Omicron first emerged
It comes as Boris Johnson is due to review data that will illustrate the impact Christmas festivities have had on the number of Covid cases.
The Prime Minister is expected to use the data to determine whether additional measures need to be brought in to combat the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Last week, a public health expert warned people to use tests ‘responsibly’ amid the shortage.
Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said on Twitter: ‘I am hearing about people carrying out multiple lateral flow tests in a single day.
‘The tests are in short supply in many parts of England and this kind of practice will exacerbate supply problems, including for key workers such as NHS staff. Please use the tests responsibly.’
This is at least the sixth time lateral flow tests have been unavailable for delivery while the government urges people to collect tests from their local pharmacies.
How can you get a lateral flow test?
How can I pick up a lateral flow test?
You can pick up tests for free from a pharmacy or other collection point, which is the quickest way to get one for most people.
Visit the NHS website by clicking here, where you can find your local site. You can then click on ‘get a collect code’, and you are given a code to give to that centre.
How can I order a lateral flow test?
You can order a lateral flow test kit online by clicking here, although the NHS asks people to only order online if they cannot pick up a test.
When should I do a lateral flow test?
The NHS advises you should take a lateral flow tests on ‘days when you’re more likely to catch or spread Covid-19’, such as before you mix with people in crowded indoor places, or visit someone who is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19.
Double jabbed adults are also now being asked to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19.
When can you get a PCR test?
You can order a free PCR test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a walk-in or drive-through test site, by clicking here.
You should get one if you have any of the main three Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a new and continuous cough or you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or they’ve changed.
The Government says that if you have no symptoms you can also get a PCR test kit if:
- you’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive and you must self-isolate
- you’ve been asked to get a test by a local council or someone from NHS Test and Trace
- a GP or other health professional has asked you to get a test
- you’re taking part in a government pilot project
- you’ve been asked to get a test to confirm a positive result
- you’ve received an unclear result and were told to get a second test
- you need to get a test for someone you live with who has symptoms
- you’re in the National Tactical Response Group
When do you have to isolate?
New guidance which came into force this month says that fully vaccinated people who are in close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case should take a rapid lateral flow test every day for a week to help slow the spread of the virus.
People who test positive or develop symptoms are still required to isolate, as are unvaccinated people who are ‘not eligible for this new daily testing policy’.