Coronavirus test rationing: who will be at the back of the queue?

Nationwide shortage of Covid-19 testing capacity means some people may have to wait longer for appointments

Coronavirus testing site
A health worker at a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Wolverhampton
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has blamed a shortage of Covid-19 tests on a “sharp rise” in demand - and suggested that not everyone who wants a check will be allowed to book one.

"Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing whether priorities or not,” he told MPs yesterday. “But as demand has risen, so we’re having to prioritise once again.”

Hospital patients, NHS staff and care home residents will be tested first, Hancock said, and a full “updated prioritisation” will be published soon.

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According to The Times, “plans are being drawn up to reserve laboratory capacity for these groups, which could make it harder for other people with symptoms to get tests”.

Care homes are currently requesting 100,000 tests a day “to meet a pledge for weekly testing for staff and residents”, the newspaper reports.

As a result, says The Mirror, “ordinary members of the public - such as school children and their parents - could find themselves being forced to wait”.

In many parts of the country, appointments for tests are thin on the ground.

And that leaves “the grim prospect of people with Covid-19 symptoms being officially denied tests for the first time since testing was ramped up earlier this summer”, the paper adds.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland today hinted that adults without children would find themselves at the very back of the queue.

“For me, priorities should be for children in school and their parents to make sure that their lives are safe, and also that they’re not disrupted in the way that we’re seeing,” he said during an interview on Sky News.

Hancock has vowed to fix the system by creating extra capacity, but said that may take “a matter of weeks”.

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