Britain’s COVID testing buckles, pressuring government

A security guard stands outside a Covid-19 test Centre in Leyton in east London on September 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 17 September 2020

Britain’s COVID testing buckles, pressuring government

  • Approval of his government’s handling of the crisis fell to its lowest recorded by pollster YouGov, with 63% viewing it badly
  • Ministers have acknowledged that many families are unable to get tests or were offered them only at remote locations

LONDON: Britain’s government acknowledged problems in its COVID-19 testing system on Thursday as soaring demand met with worsening turnaround times and availability during a spike in infections.
Only 14% of test results in England came back in 24 hours last week, a sharp fall from 32% the week before, data showed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is under pressure over what it had said would be a “world-beating” system to test and trace cases so as to avoid a second wave.
Approval of his government’s handling of the crisis fell to its lowest recorded by pollster YouGov, with 63% viewing it badly.
“There’s a challenge in testing,” UK health minister Matt Hancock said. “The challenge is that demand has gone up faster.”
Johnson acknowledged on Wednesday that there was not enough capacity and said he was aiming for 500,000 daily tests by the end of October.
“I am certain that we will need more as we go beyond the end of October,” Dido Harding, interim chair of the new National Institute for Health Protection, told lawmakers, noting two new labs would be set up.
Ministers have acknowledged that many families are unable to get tests or were offered them only at remote locations.
Harding said 27% of people getting tests did not have symptoms, and health minister Hancock pointed a finger at people sometimes going without good reason.
“It is incredibly important that those with symptoms come forward, and that those without symptoms do not,” Hancock said.
Cases are sharply increasing, with many children, parents and workers fretting whether or not they can safely return to school or the office.
Paul Reid, Chief Executive of Ireland’s Health Service Executive, said England’s system was “almost in collapse” and UK officials had asked him for help.
The national Test and Trace scheme said there had been a 167% increase in numbers testing positive in England since the end of August.
There were 3,395 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Thursday, while Wednesday saw the highest daily number since May, although many more tests are being carried out.
There were 236,219 tests processed in the latest daily figures, compared to around 70,000 in early May.
In total, 381,614 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Britain, and there have been 41,705 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.


France may be experiencing 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day: Govt. medical advisor

Updated 35 min 47 sec ago

France may be experiencing 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day: Govt. medical advisor

  • France registered a record 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours

PARIS: France may be experiencing 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day — two times more than the latest figures — Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, told RTL radio on Monday.
“There is probably more than 50,000 cases per day. We estimate, on the scientific committee, that we are more in the region of 100,000 cases per day,” said Delfraissy.
France registered a record 52,010 new confirmed coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said in a statement on Sunday, as a second wave of cases surges through Europe.
The new cases took the French total to 1,138,507, with France now ahead of Argentina and Spain to register the world’s fifth highest number of cases after the United States, India, Brazil and Russia.