The Test and Trace system are at a ‘critical pinch-point’ which has led to an apology from a senior staff member, but not from Dido Harding herself. Barnoess Harding is the head of the Test and Trace system in England.
Instead Director of testing Sarah-Jane Marsh was left to issue an apology to people unable to get a Covid-19 test as officials consider new lockdown restrictions to curb the current spike in cases.
Sarah-Jane Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a “critical pinch-point”.
Ms Marsh added that the system is doing “all it can to expand quickly”.
There have been reports of people being told there are no appointments available at test centres in England and that there are no home tests kits available to send out.
Ms Marsh wrote on Twitter: “Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present.
“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded; it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.
“We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests.The testing team work on this 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We recognise the country is depending on us.”
Andy Thompson, 38, a technical manager from Crewe, said his six-year-old daughter is home from school with a continuous cough, but has so far been unable to get a home test.
“It’s an absolute shambles. No home tests available. And now the nearest test centre is Oldham, a 100-mile round-trip with a sick child,” he said.
“I didn’t realise how bad it is. If you haven’t got a car, no way you’re getting tested.”
People have also complained in recent days and weeks of being directed hundreds of miles to get a test.
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged that people would have to travel no more than 75 miles for a test.
Further problems with the testing system came as a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said the latest increase in coronavirus cases is “very worrying”.
Professor Andrew Hayward said scientists are monitoring the data closely for signs of wider community transmission of the disease.
“Generally it is local outbreaks, but there is also very worrying increases in cases, particularly over the last few days,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“That is what we are really keeping a close eye on – the extent to which it moves away from these local outbreaks to broader community transmission.
“What we saw in the last few days from this surveillance data was this worrying increase in cases which, as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, can potentially get out of hand if we don’t be very serious about the control measures.”