Testing tsar Dido Harding says demand for coronavirus swabs is FOUR times what system can cope with


TESTING tsar Dido Harding has admitted the demand for coronavirus swabs is FOUR times what the system can cope with.

Baroness Harding said demand was “significantly outstripping” current capacity and that no one had predicted how many people would need a test.

People had to join massive queues to try and get a test

Baroness Harding admitted demand for testing was outstripping capacity

Baroness Harding, Chair of NHS Track & Trace, told MPs on the Science & Technology Committee: “Demand is significantly outstripping capacity that we have.”

“It’s clearly obvious there is significantly more demand than there is capacity.

“The best way we have of estimating total demand is the number of people calling 119 and the number of visits to the (testing website).”

“(That number) would be three to four times the number of tests that we have available.”

But Baroness Harding warned people could be counted twice in that total figure.

She said demand was at least “multiples” of the test capacity we have today.

The testing chief accused 25 per cent of people who get tested of lying about their symptoms in order to see if they have the virus.

“What we have got is that up to 20-25 per cent of people who have been coming forward for a test don’t have any symptoms.”

As many as 6,500 people between September 1 and September 4 turned up to testing sites because they had been in contact with someone with symptoms of coronavirus – not because they themselves were ill.

She told MPs that the latest capacity for diagnostic tests was 242,817.


Testing sites across the country have been overloaded with people trying to get a hold of swabs, and hundreds of people have been forced to queue up to try and get checked for the virus.

Baroness Harding shifted blame onto scientists, saying that no one had expected the increase in demand.

She said: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see a really sizeable demand as we have over the course of the last few weeks, none of the modelling expected (that).”

The massive surge in demand is because many Brits are “scared and worried” and getting tested when they don’t need to be, she added.

Kids finally being allowed to go back to school has also triggered a rise in demand, with double the number of children under the age of 17 asking for a swab.

The number of tests available in parts of the country has also been cut – with the swabs available in London being slashed by a fifth.

This is because tests are having to be prioritised depending on the prevalence of the disease in particular areas.

The testing boss said: “I do understand that everyone wants to have the maximum tests available, we are doing our utmost to prioritise… testing in Bolton and in other areas of higher prevalence.”

“The London testing capacity, yesterday we tested just under 10,000 people in London.

“Over the last few weeks London has seen the absolute number of tests allocate come down, precisely because London has a lower prevalence than Bolton or the North East.”

People have had to turn up at walk-in testing sites after being unable to book online

But some testing sites like this one in Twickenham, London were almost entirely empty


Baroness Harding warned although it was “counterintuitive” people would catch coronavirus from their friends and family, that most people were getting it from their loved ones.

She said: “It’s instinctive to believe that strangers are more dangerous than the people you live with

Baroness Harding added that a lot of people were trying to escape self-isolation by getting tested.

“We all want to believe a test will set us free (from self-isolation), that if we test negative, everything is fine.

“Yet all the evidence is that the household contacts is most likely to be are the most likely to infect you or be infected by you.”

“And yet the way the disease incubates is, that’s just not true.

“A negative test on day two, three, four, five or six of self isolation doesn’t mean you won’t infect your friends and family in those 14 days.”