Waiting times for coronavirus test results have exploded over the Christmas period as the virus surges in England.
People are once again waiting more than three days (74 hours) for results from home testing kits – up from 40 hours two weeks earlier and the highest since October.
And care home residents are waiting an average of 68 hours for “satellite” test kit results, up from 44 hours two weeks earlier.
Waiting times for regional, local and mobile testing kit results also all jumped up in the week of December 17-23.
It comes as alarm bells ring over a record 232,169 people testing positive for coronavirus in that single week – up 33% on the week before.
The privatised NHS Test and Trace system today admitted that while waiting times had decrease for two months, they “have notably increased in the latest two weeks.”
Officials did not give a reason for the delay, which came at the same time as backlogged freight and Christmas post.
Test and Trace chief Dido Harding, a Tory peer, said the rise in waiting times was due to “huge increases in demand”.
She insisted: “Despite record numbers of people using NHS Test and Trace, we are successfully reaching record numbers of people who have tested positive and their contacts.
“We continue to make tests available to anybody who needs one, while our labs are processing ever greater numbers of tests.”
The Department of Health said that, due to “growing demand over the holiday period” and a new variant of Covid-19, it prioritised making more tests available and nearly 2.4million people took a test in the week to December 23.
It also said Test and Trace had improved its contact tracing website, and launched “more effective” systems for contacting members of the same household.
Since early December, the problem of Test and Trace not reaching large proportions of Covid-19 sufferers’ contacts appears to have vanished – with 93% traced.
However, that is only because the “more effective” new system involves counting an entire household as being “traced” if officials speak to just one member of that household.