The government is struggling to keep up with demand when it comes to providing enough Covid-19 tests. However, this problem was anticipated as early as the beginning of December by the pharmaceutical industry.
Chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies Leyla Hannbeck told i News the issue was raised with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) over a month ago, but it failed to respond to her concerns.
“The problems around demand should have been anticipated. The government said it boosted the number of kits by eight million but eight million is not enough,” she stated.
From early December, the new variant Omicron has swept across the nation, causing a significant surge in the number of cases per day. Therefore, there has been an unprecedented number of people takig lateral flow tests (LFTs), as they come down with the virus.
In addition to this, the government introduced new rules just before Christmas that stated people could end their self-isolation if they test negative on days six and seven or avoid isolating if they live with people who have Covid-19 by testing daily.
What’s more, they advised the public to do an LFT before visiting loved ones in order to protect them against asymptomatic carriers. Consequently, this has meant demand for tests has soared.
Ms Hannbeck told the publication: “It’s the planning ahead which was not done.”
While the UKHSA issued eight million tests recently, as many as half a million people tested on December 23rd alone. Therefore, it is expected there have been issues with pharmacies running out of supply.
According to Ms Hannbeck: “In order for us to manage this, we are going to have to see at least triple the amount of test kits the government has made available.”
Pharmacies experienced chaos over the festive period, with customers flocking to pick up their free tests.
Avicenna chairman Salim Jetha, who works at Lewis Grove Pharmacy in Lewisham, told Chemist and Druggist people phoning up for tests was “slowing down our essential services”.
Similarly, pharmacist manager of Halifax’s Heath Pharmacy Amanda Smith stated: “Everyone is desperate for test kits and we just aren’t getting enough of them.”
She added when people find out there is stock at the pharmacy, “unnecessary queues tend to build up, which is deterring those wishing to access pharmacy services”.
To help pharmacies in England meet demand, the Welsh government agreed to provide an extra four million tests as a loan.
PA News Agency reported the total number of LFTs sent to England from Wales will now equate to ten million.
Mark Drakeford, first minister for Wales, was reported as saying: “Wales has a significant stock of lateral flow tests, sufficient to meet our needs over the weeks ahead.”
To solve the test crisis, the government might start charging for LFTs, The Times revealed, with free tests potentially only being available in high-risk settings, including schools, hospitals and care homes.
According to a senior Whitehall source: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody for evermore.”
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