Britons desperately search for lateral flow tests in order to save New Year’s Eve. Millions of people are running low on supplies or have lost their celebrations completely because of the Omicron explosion.
Many people have been commuting from pharmacy to pharmacy in search of quick tests. Then, after chronic shortages at the Government’s website, they waited in line for hours to be able to buy them.
A test hunter said: “Trying to obtain a lateral flow exam at the moment is similar to Race Across the World. You’ll keep running madly from one location to the next, bumping into people on the same mission.
Another wrote: ‘Feel like @Schwarzenegger trying to find turbo man, only it’s lateral flow test kits. Everywhere all gone’ – a nod to the Terminator star’s 1996 Christmas hit movie, Jingle All The Way.
Some were able to pass enough tests, and have no covid. These people posted their results alongside bottles of Prosecco. Others have admitted that a lack of tests won’t put them off going out, telling Boris Johnson to ‘stick them up his a***’.
Boris Johnson has asked anyone visiting family and friends to take the time to test their kits before going.
This has brought about a rush to borrow or find these items in communities to make sure they are Covid-free.
Bars, clubs, and restaurants across England, which are already in trouble, claim that the advice of the Prime Minister has already destroyed their business. Many have offered lateral flows to outside customers in an effort to increase their business on the busiest day of the year.
Astoria, Portsmouth’s nightclub and adjacent Mr Miyagi’s bar will host a huge New Years Eve party. More than 2000 are expected to visit the bars. This afternoon, the bar was open for patrons to grab their wristbands or take part in a lateral flow test before they head out into the night.
Finn Touhig (18) gets a free test at the bar. But millions of homes are either short or completely out of tests
On the windows of Colden Common Pharmacy, Hampshire today, a sign warns that take-away lateral flow tester kits have been discontinued
It was the same picture at the a Boots store in Eastleigh, Hampshire
Many people visited pharmacies today in Tonbridge, Kent (left), hoping to locate a test. However, they found that all of them had left. The lucky ones who were able to get their results posted the negatives and their preferred booze (right).
People have compared searching for lateral flows with the Christmas hunt for toys.
Supplies of Covid tests are likely to be rationed over the next fortnight as health officials struggle to cope with ‘huge demand’, Sajid Javid has admitted.
The health secretary warned in a letter to MPs that tests will need to be prioritised for ‘vulnerable groups’, such as care home residents and staff.
There are concerns that the supply problem could impact the economy if workers cannot get the necessary tests to allow them to be released from quarantine quickly.
Doctors and nurses have been identified by medical unions as among the people who are having difficulty accessing tests.
Home deliveries of lateral flows tests were not being accepted by the government website for much of Wednesday. They also weren’t available yesterday morning. [THU]. Last night online orders were restored.
Also, pharmacists complained of sporadic supplies.
Ministers are now scrambling to secure tests from around the world as they battle an ‘unprecedented’ surge in demand caused by a rise in infections and a change in self-isolation rules.
The shortage of rapid Covid tests threatens to turn New Year’s Eve celebrations into super-spreading events, an expert has warned.
Professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said it is ‘very worrying’ that some people will be unable to check if they are infectious before attending a party this evening.
Conditions at such events are ‘perfect’ for spreading the virus, he added.
Professor Openshaw told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it’s very worrying indeed.
‘We know the situations in which transmission happens and fortunately I don’t think we are facing the sort of lockdown that was necessary in order to cope in the very earliest part of this year.
‘But we do know that crowding together in poorly ventilated spaces, particularly if you are shouting over loud music and so on, is absolutely perfect in terms of transmitting this very, very highly transmissible virus.’
To keep the virus under control and staff working, Javid intends to make use of 900million lateral flow device (LFD) in winter.
LFDs were doubled by the UK Health Security Agency, from just 120million to nearly 300million in December.
The government is also expected to triple supply for January and February, from the 100million-300million monthly estimate.
Mr Javid told MPs: ‘The arrival of the omicron variant has caused record case numbers and unprecedented demand for both PCR and Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.
‘This has inevitably placed strain on the testing system, despite the impressive scaling-up of supply, logistics and laboratory capacity. Other countries have faced similar challenges.’
He added: ‘We are constantly reviewing system performance and ways to maximise its response to the demand for tests.
‘However, in light of the huge demand for LFDs seen over the last three weeks, we expect to need to constrain the system at certain points over the next two weeks to manage supply over the course of each day, with new tranches of supply released regularly throughout each day.
‘We will continue making tests available to everyone who needs them, particularly vulnerable groups such as care home residents and those who work in critical sectors such as the care workforce.’
London Daily Covid admissions have increased again. On December 28, 456 patients infected with Covid were admitted to London’s wards. This is the second day in a row admissions been above the crucial 400-a-day threshold that Government advisers warned could trigger nationwide intervention
The UK Health Security Agency previously stated that there is no shortage of supply. Instead, it blamed logistical issues, such as difficulties sending so many test results from its warehouses.
But outlining plans for the months ahead, Mr Javid said: ‘To respond to anticipated demand over the coming few weeks we are buying hundreds of millions more LFD tests, bringing new products on board and accelerating their deployment to the public.
‘We are also doubling our total delivery capacity with Royal Mail to 900,000 test packs and PCR tests a day.
‘We are tripling the supply of LFDs in January and February from our pre-omicron plan of 100 million to 300 million per month.’
Mr Javid said that the Government’s daily PCR capacity had been increased from 530,000 per day in November to 700,000 per day now, excluding those for NHS patients and staff.
He stressed that the UK provides free tests for all people, regardless of their symptoms. This is unlike other countries.
‘We are doing more testing per head than any comparable country and we have focused recent communications on encouraging testing before seeing friends and relatives, particularly those who are vulnerable, over the festive period,’ he added.
Staff members of the NHS who have close contact with a Covid patient at home cannot work unless they receive a positive PCR test. They must also take an LFD every ten days.
Some doctors and nurses claim they can’t get LFDs because they have to use the same system that the public. This has led to an increase in staff absenteeism, which could threaten the safety of patients and lead to cancellations.
London cancer care worker said she lost several days work because she couldn’t access quick tests online.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, she told the BBC: ‘This is one of the key reasons why there are absences on the front line.
‘I used to pick up two boxes of 40 tests from work, but now I have to access tests in the same queue as the general public.’ Another NHS worker, based in Cambridgeshire, also confirmed they had been unable to get hold of rapid tests through their hospital ahead of the Christmas period.
Royal College of Nursing, British Medical Association, and Royal College of Nursing both stated that healthcare workers should be given priority.
The Welsh Government agreed to lend four million additional lateral flow testing to NHS England. That brings the total amount of mutual aid at 10million.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘Wales has a significant stock of lateral flow tests, sufficient to meet our needs over the weeks ahead.’
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said the Scottish Government is now ‘prioritising some slots for essential workers – such as NHS and transport staff – as well as for those who are clinically vulnerable or eligible for new Covid treatments’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people in England heading out for Christmas or New Year’s Eve festivities to get tested.
The rules have been changed recently to permit people who get Covid to be released from quarantine seven days after they catch it, instead of ten days if they fail a two-day lateral flow test.
On Wednesday, the UK Health Security Agency stated that pharmacies would have access to eight million lateral flow testing kits by today. [FRI].
The Department for Health and Social Care said the NHS has ‘additional stock of lateral flow tests’ and stressed people who ‘live or work in vulnerable settings have access to dedicated testing order routes’.
A government spokesperson said: ‘Throughout the pandemic we have prioritised the most vulnerable when it comes to vaccines, boosters, testing and other infection control measures such as PPE.’
More than 18,000 employees are not working in acute hospital trusts of England because they have been diagnosed with Covid or are being self-isolating.
Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, has written to Sajid Javid calling for him to prioritise PCR and lateral flow tests for key workers.
He said test shortages are adding to the pressure on the health service as ‘worrying numbers of NHS staff are having to isolate’.
He added: ‘I urge you to put the key workers we have relied upon for the past two years to the front of the queue and do everything you can to prevent a staffing shortage crisis in our NHS.
‘The Government must get a grip on this crisis, bring these shortages to an end, and ensure everyone can access tests quickly and regularly.’
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: ‘The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has no doubt had a massive impact on demand for lateral flow test kits and PCR tests, however it is vital that the promised new supply of kits are offered to key workers such as health and social care staff as a priority.
‘Being unable to get the tests means staff may not be legally allowed to work and at a time of acute workforce shortages and winter pressures this could be devastating for the care that can be given right across the NHS.’
Chairman of the Royal College of GPs Professor Martin Marshall blasted the lack of rapid flow testing, saying that it was pointless recommending them if no one can afford them.
He told Times Radio: ‘The Government advice is reasonably clear about what people need to do before they’re allowed to socialise, before they’re allowed to release after self-isolation, but there’s no point in having that advice if as GPs we know we’re no longer able to help patients to actually act on that advice, and that’s a big issue for us.’