LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s COVID-19 testing system was crackling on Tuesday as a tightening prevented people including doctors from taking a test on a potential threat to key health services, health sector organizations said.
In an effort to slow one of the highest coronavirus deaths in the West, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in May to create a global beating system to test and track people exposed to the virus.
Our members are telling us that lack of access to testing for staff is a major barrier for service providers, said Layla McCay, director of the NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across the healthcare sector.
We are significantly concerned that some people with COVID-19 symptoms, including health care workers and their families, have difficulty passing the tests due to insufficient laboratory capacity, she said.
Attempts by Reuters reporters to obtain a COVID-19 test on Tuesday were greeted with an announcement on the governments website saying: This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Insurers, which represents hospital trusts in England, said a growing number of staff were unable to come to work because they or someone they lived with had COVID-like symptoms but could not be tested.
He said hospital bosses were working in the dark because they did not know why there were shortages, how long they were likely to last, how geographically widespread they were, nor what priority would be given to health care workers.
Britain advises those who show symptoms to take a test although it says the system is loaded by asymptomatic people seeking tests. Some schools have required every sick student to take a test or stay away for 14 days.
The health ministry said the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity was the highest it had ever been, but there was considerable demand from people who had no symptoms. New reservation sites and home testing kits are made available every day for people with symptoms and we are targeting testing capacity in areas most in need, the ministry said.
Parliament Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Tuesday she was receiving numerous complaints from people who were unable to get tests after showing symptoms of COVID-19.
This is completely unacceptable and completely undermines traces and traces, he wrote in a tweet.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Guy Faulconbridge; Edited by David Clarke
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