HOLIDAYMAKERS have been slammed for triggering Covid test shortages – with Matt Hancock saying a quarter are being taken up by ineligible Brits.
The Health Secretary says the UK is turning around a record amount of checks, with capacity for 250,000 swabs daily.
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But he warned some were abusing the system, with healthy people getting needlessly tested before jetting off on their holidays. Schools are also wrongly sending whole year groups for swabs, he claimed.
The travel industry is demanding Brits returning from high-risk nations get swabs done a few days after their return to slash the fortnight quarantine requirement.
But sick Brits were one again unable to book Covid checks yesterday after labs were overwhelmed with a surge in demand. Sarah-Jane Marsh, director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, apologised on Tuesday and blamed a “critical pinch point”.
However, Mr Hancock said “inappropriate” use of the system was behind the shortages. He told BBC Breakfast: “About 25 per cent of the people who come forward we estimate are not eligible for a test.
“We have seen this quite sharp rise in the last couple of weeks of people without symptoms who don’t have a good reason coming forward to get a test. There have been stories of whole schools, or parts of schools, being all sent to get a test – that is not acceptable, that is not an appropriate use of our testing resources.
“I’ve even heard stories of people saying, ‘I’m going on holiday next week therefore I’m going to get a test.’ No – that is not what the testing system is there for.”
The free tests are available to people with symptoms of coronavirus – a fever, new and continuous cough or a loss or change in sense of taste or smell. And asymptomatic people instructed to get a check by a doctor or local council, as well as some essential workers.
But some holiday destinations, such as Cyprus, require all Brits to get swabbed 72-hours before they fly out.
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.”
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