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The Covid-19 test and trace system is in crisis tonight as bungling ministers are being told: “It’s simply not good enough.”
Around 250,000 people are awaiting coronavirus results – and the Government admitted the backlog could last for weeks.
Health bosses warned the NHS is struggling because so many medics and nurses are stuck at home while they wait for a test.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said: “The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark.
“They don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.”
An extra 400 lab technicians are urgently needed to help speed up testing. Students with “some previous lab experience” are being begged to fill part-time roles.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The Government promised a ‘world-beating’ system by June, but three months later they still can’t meet demand. It is simply not good enough. Their failure to do so is making us more vulnerable to a deadly second wave.”
An NHS insider said: “Demand for testing has gone through the roof.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted there were “challenges” with the testing system. He told MPs the Government was “working hard” to fix them but it could take “a matter of weeks”.
He added: “The whole House knows there are operational challenges and we’re working hard to fix them.”
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.”
Pubs 'to shut at 9pm' if coronavirus infections don't slow and 'rule of six' fails
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth asked why Mr Hancock did not use the summer to “significantly expand” lab capacity for testing, ahead of the reopening of schools.
Mr Hancock replied: “I don’t deny that it is an enormous challenge and when you have a free service it’s inevitable that demand rises.
“The challenge is to make sure that we prioritise the tests we have as a nation to those who most need it.”
Yesterday the Government said there had been 3,105 new cases, and 27 more deaths. It brought the UK death total to 41,664.
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