When the coronavirus first hit Britain, Boris Johnson assured the public that our country remains extremely well prepared to deal with it.
Among our national strengths, he boasted, was a fantastic testing system.
Even when the virus was at its peak in May, the Prime Minister was still in hyperbolic mode, promising that the testing regime would soon be global.
How hollow that rhetoric now seems. The government has failed miserably to keep these extravagant promises. Far from being a world leader, the British shambolic approach to testing approaches an international embarrassment.
Frontline healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, are unable to find tests, as are nursing home residents, teachers and millions of others who, more than six months after onset of the pandemic, could reasonably expect to be tested on demand if necessary.
Even when the virus was at its peak in May, the prime minister was still in hyperbolic mode as he promised the testing regime would soon be global.
An air of chaos reigns, characterized by limited capacities, difficulties in scheduling appointments, backlogs and long delays in results.
It is a distressing mess that not only fuels deep disillusionment among the public, but also poses a serious threat to the health of nations.
The entire post-foreclosure strategy has been based on creating a fast and reliable test, tracking and traceability system. Without it, containment of the virus will be much more difficult.
Quite simply, the ministers let us down. They need to pull themselves together before it’s too late.
As a physician, I can tell you that the medical profession has been well aware of the problem for months. Despite the vital need for healthcare professionals not to use Covid, nearly all of my colleagues have long since given up on booking test appointments because the task is nearly impossible.
An air of chaos reigns, characterized by limited capacities, difficulties in making appointments, backlogs and long delays in results
One of my associates developed a cough which he believed was just part of a cold, but as directed he had to self-isolate, while a replacement was brought in as a blanket. This has both increased costs for the NHS and undermined the continuity of care. If such an experience is repeated continuously elsewhere, it will be difficult for hospitals and clinics not to mention nursing homes, schools and workplaces to function.
The UK system that was supposed to beat the world has faltered under the weight of demand.
A study conducted by LBC Radio this week found that no walk-in, drive-by or at-home testing was available in any of the ten regions of England with the highest infection rates, such as Bradford and Manchester.
Huge queues were photographed yesterday at test centers in Southend, Bury, Birmingham and Manchester: further symbols of states’ failure to deliver.
Faced with questions from Parliament yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that 250,000 Britons are awaiting test results thanks to a colossal backlog. Shamefully, 75% of tests miss their 24-hour deadline target.
UK system supposed to beat the world has warped under the weight of demand
President Sir Lindsay Hoyle has rightly said that this record is unacceptable and called on Mr Hancock to take urgent action. The situation is so dire that tests are sent to Germany and Italy to get results, a shameful development.
Beyond the lab delays, many people spoke about the ordeal over the phone or through the website while trying to book a test. It was a nightmare, like dealing a thousand times with your car insurance provider, a caller on a BBC radio show said yesterday.
Even when the lucky ones manage to secure a place, the testing location can be very far away. A teenager from Plymouth on the south coast has been offered a date in Inverness, Scotland, 11 hours away. The responsibility for this fiasco rests squarely with the government.
The ministers showed neither foresight nor efficiency. Over the long summer months, they should have embarked on a massive capacity building exercise, using the wealth of expertise to be found in the NHS, local government and the public health sector. Instead, they ceded control to a number of business giants like Serco.
Many experts have been sidelined, their experience untapped, their skills ignored. The result has been a hopelessly fragmented and disconnected structure unable to meet the needs of nations.
The government has failed miserably to keep these extravagant promises. Far from being a world leader, Britain’s shambolic approach to testing approaches international embarrassment
As Professor Allyson Pollock, director of the Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science at Newcastle University wrote in July: The UK test and trace program is about as far from integrated or effective as it gets. . This is because a vital part of it operates not within the framework of the NHS, but in parallel with it, as a network of commercial and privatized testing laboratories, drive-thru centers and centers. calls.
The result, she added, was chaos. In fact, the government has broken its part of the contract with the public. We have accepted an unprecedented loss of our essential freedoms in exchange for effective state management of the crisis.
But ministers have not respected the market, as evidenced by a series of blackouts such as the provision of protective equipment, prank on the contact tracing app and mixed messages about the risk.
This farrago test is as serious as any of them. It has the potential to devastate the economy, education, and the health service itself, particularly as I have seen in my own practice due to absenteeism among staff members who have to be absent from the workplace. work because they show symptoms of Covid but cannot take a test.
Last week, Boris Johnson presented a grand vision of a system that could deliver ten million tests per day early next year, dubbing it the moonshot program.
The cost has been estimated at 100 billion, almost the equivalent of the entire NHS budget. But, given the ineptitude, his proposal sounded depressing absurdity rather than inspiring audacity.
Director Matt Hancock has complained that the frivolous demand for testing is stretching capacity beyond its limits. But this attempt to pass the buck is hypocritical.
Facing questions in Parliament yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) admitted that 250,000 Britons were awaiting test results thanks to a colossal backlog.
It is, after all, Mr Hancocks’ government that not only adopted a deliberate policy to create a climate of fear about the coronavirus, but also promised that anyone with symptoms could be tested. He is a little rich now to blame the public for acting on his own advice.
The government must stop indulging in distractions. Most doctors believe a second wave is coming. The demand for tests is therefore likely to explode in the weeks and months to come.
The pressures are even greater as students return to school, workers return to offices, and millions of people will get colds and flu.
Further pressure will come from the fact that a huge number of tests have naturally been promised to nursing homes.
Our country and our economy cannot endure another lockdown. But without a vaccine, the only way to avoid such a calamity is with an effective testing regime, which properly uses NHS and public sector resources.
Mr Hancock took a step towards greater humility and urgency in the Commons yesterday when he spoke of the enormous challenge his government faces and the need to prioritize testing for those who need it most.
He added that the issues could be resolved in a matter of weeks. He now needs to translate his words into action.