What is the current situation with COVID-19 Testing in the UK?
There is constant media coverage regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK and across the world. However, this can be very overwhelming, and there is often conflicting information. At COVID-19 Test, we want to ensure that the general public have up-to-date facts about the current situation, particularly in relation to testing.
Please see below for the most recent updates.
Tuesday 28th April
Since the weekend, further drive-through testing sites have opened across the country. These include sites in Peterborough and Dorset. According to the UK government website, there are 48 sites in total which are scheduled to open before the end of April.
When you undergo testing at a drive-through site, you may have the option to bring additional members of your household with you if you are self-isolating together. After checking your appointment details, a staff member will come over to the car and take a swab of your mouth and nose. Alternatively, a staff member will pass you a kit and instruct you on how to perform the PCR test yourself. Once the swabs have been taken, you are free to leave the site. You will receive the results within 48 hours by text message.
Please see this video for more information:
Furthermore, extra measures have been put in place to increase the testing of people in areas which are far from testing sites. An article published by the BBC on 26th April 2020 states that 96 pop-up facilities have been planned across the country to treat those in ‘care homes, police and fire stations, prisons and benefit centres.’ 11 of the sites are already running in areas such as Watford, Carlisle and Salisbury.
These pop-up sites can be set up in only 20 minutes and are run by the military, except for 4 planned sites in Northern Ireland which will be run by contractors. All pop-up sites are estimated to be open by the beginning of May. Read more about this here.
In regards to the online platform that was launched on Friday 24th April for key workers to book COVID-19 PCR tests, the demand for tests is still exceeding the availability. This article from The Guardian states that on Monday 27th April, 10,000 home-testing kits were ordered, and 18,000 slots were booked for testing sites across the UK. The availability of home-testing kits and slots for testing at other sites has increased since Friday.
Moreover, another article published by The Guardian on Sunday 26th April states that the government are once again considering the use of rapid antibody tests. These tests are manufactured in the UK. If the tests are proved to yield a high level of accuracy, the government may order a large quantity of the kits to determine how many people may have been affected by COVID-19.
Friday 24th April
This morning, it was revealed that a website has been launched for key workers to book COVID-19 tests, either through home testing or at drive-through testing sites. Along with the launch of this website, it was announced that more key workers would have access to coronavirus testing through this platform. Those now eligible for testing include teachers, transport officers and justice workers. You can see the full list here. The government are still only using PCR tests to determine if people are infected with COVID-19.
Yet, according to an article published by the BBC this afternoon, the website was temporarily closed within hours of opening. 5,000 home PCR testing kits were ordered, and 15,000 PCR tests were booked in at drive-through sites. The government have reassured the public that the website will be back online once new booking slots are available.
By expanding the list of essential workers who can have access to testing, this means that around 10 million people are now eligible for PCR testing. It remains to be seen whether there will be enough COVID-19 PCR tests to support this number. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that this online booking system for COVID-19 testing will also soon be available in Scotland. The more key workers who are tested, the more people will be able to return to work safely.
You can read more about the new online testing platform here.
The UK government’s testing capacity is constantly increasing, however, there is doubt over whether they will be able to achieve the target of 100,000 COVID-19 tests per day by the end of April. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stated that daily testing capacity has reached 51,000, yet on Thursday 23rd April, 23,560 tests were conducted.
COVID-19 rapid antibody tests have yet to be utilised by the UK government. Other countries, however, are using this method of testing to help control the outbreak of the coronavirus and to allow people to return to work. In an article published by the Las Vegas Review Journal today, a manufacturer of dietary supplements is reported to have provided their employees with free antibody tests. The article states that this is being done for the employees’ ‘comfort and peace of mind,’ rather than for the benefit of the business.