PEOPLE with no coronavirus symptoms are clogging up the system trying to get tests even though they shouldn’t be, Matt Hancock blasted today.
After reports of Brits unable to get coronavirus tests and being forced to drive miles away from their homes to take one, the Health Secretary this morning claimed a quarter of them were people who didn’t need one.
Only people with symptoms are eligible to get a free coronavirus test from the NHS – unless they have been told to by a medical professional.
People can also pay to get private tests done if they wish, but these are done separately.
The UK has capacity to do more than 300,000 tests every single day – whether that’s through a drive through centre, a mobile test van or with a home kit.
But only people who have got a persistent cough, a temperature or have had a loss of sense or smell are allowed to take them.
People are not allowed to get them if they think they may have caught it but have no symptoms at all.
They shouldn’t be getting tested if they have been near an infected person either – only if they start developing symptoms of their own.
However, up to 70 per cent of cases are asymptomatic and passed on without people outwardly showing signs.
Mr Hancock said today he’d heard of cases where a whole school was trying to secure testing for their pupils, or when families were trying to get tests done before jetting off on holiday.
He said this morning: “We have seen an increase in demand including from people who are not eligible for tests, people who don’t have symptoms.
“You are eligible for a test if you have symptoms of coronavirus or if you have a very specific reason otherwise.
“We have seen an increase, and about 25 per cent of people who are coming forward don’t have symptoms and aren’t eligible.”
Only in some high-risk settings like care homes are tests available for people with no symptoms.
It comes as:
- People in England will be banned from meeting in groups of six from Monday onwards – and slapped with £100 fines if they do
- Matt Hancock said he “hoped” Christmas would be normal this year but that the rules would be in place for the “foreseeable future”
- He also revealed venues will be forced to get customers details for track and trace in case there’s an outbreak at a pub or cafe
- But he insisted it was still safe for people to go back to work as most of the new cases were coming from social settings
- Plans to trial mass gatherings again at Doncaster races could be scrapped after the rise in cases
- Alarming figures revealed there were almost 2,500 new cases in the UK yesterday — following two straight days of 3,000 new infections.
- The number of Covid-related deaths in the UK also hit 30 yesterday — the highest for weeks.
- A new public information campaign ‘hands, face, space’ is being launched today on TV, radio and in print to show how coronavirus spreads indoors
Mr Hancock said it was “unacceptable” people who didn’t need them were trying to get their hands on them, stopping people who were sick from doing so.
Getting one before going on holiday is “not what the testing system is here for”, he added.
But he stressed 90 per cent of people were able to get a test within 20 miles of their own home, and the problems were not widespread.
Some have told they are unable to book in tests and were being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get one.
The Health Secretary said the increase in people booking tests they shouldn’t had been happening increasingly in the last few weeks.
But he denied the system was failing and said capacity was the highest it had ever been.
He hinted that unless people stopped coming forward when they didn’t need it, the Government may be forced to ration tests.
He added: “We’ve got to be firmer, I’m afraid, with the rules around eligibility for testing.”
Many people who tried to access a test on Wednesday morning were met with the error message: “This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours. Warning: Do not call the helplines – you will not be able to get a test this way.”
RACE TO THE FINISH
Mr Hancock also suggested that mass gatherings could be banned – ust hours before they were due to kick off again.
A few thousand people are due to attend races in Doncaster today as part of a trial.
If it goes well, then stadiums and other bigger events may be allowed to open in the coming weeks.
But Mr Hancock poured cold water on the suggestion today.
He told BBC Breakfast when asked: “The PM is going to set out more details of the consequences of the new rule for six people gathering later today.
“We will set out what it means for some of these events we are planning to do.”
DON’T KILL GRAN
And he expressed concern about grandparents catching the virus from their grandkids now schools were back.
Mr Hancock warned: “That is actually a very serious problem in terms of the spread of the disease.
“While children are hardly affected in terms of getting ill, we know they can transmit the disease, that older people are more likely to die, and most grandparents are older, they are more likely to die from the disease…
“Especially with schools back, the transmission of the disease from children is one of the things we are quite worried about clinically.”
Later today Boris Johnson will address the nation in his first press conference since last year.
He will tell the public they cannot meet in groups of more than six from Monday as part of new measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Police chiefs called for the rules to be made more simple, and they will now be allowed to fine anyone breaking the rules £100.