UK coronavirus LIVE: Test result turnaround times plummet as 3,000 new cases confirmed

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  • September 17, 2020
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More than 3,000 new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK in the last 24 hours, as test result turnaround times plummeted.

Some 33.3 per cent of people who were tested for coronavirus in England in the week ending September 9, at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours. This is the lowest proportion since the week to June 17, when the figure stood at 31.3 per cent.

As of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 3,395 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, bringing the total to 381,614.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said that Brits should not snitch on their neighbours unless they are having a huge house party.

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‘It’s like prison’: Three British friends ‘abandoned’ in Italian coronavirus quarantine facility for month 


People breaking new lockdown restrictions should be reported to police

Individuals breaking the new North East restrictions should be reported to the police, while the local council is the point of contact for a business breaching the measures, it is understood.


Once the legislation is in place, the police or the local authority will be able to take action, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices.


Fines are believed to start at £100 for those who participate in illegal gatherings.


No staff at Covid-19 testing centre in Sunderland on day Matt Hancock announces new lockdown measures in north east 


NHS Test and Trace chief ‘very confident’ the Government will hit testing target

Baroness Harding earlier told MPs that she was “very confident” the Government would reach its target of carrying out 500,000 tests a day.

Appearing before the Commons Science and Technology Committee, she said: “It won’t be a completely linear journey of 10,000 a day, but what you will see is substantial increases every week between now and the end of October.”

This will be driven by the addition of new testing laboratories alongside new technology such as robotic processing, she said.


Lady Harding added: “The testing team have hit every single one of their testing targets over the course of the last six months as they grow this industry from 2,000 tests a day to over 240,000 today. So we’re very confident that we will deliver on our 500,000 by the end of October.”


Infection rate continues to rise in Leicester

The latest Public Health England data also shows that more than 300 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Leicester in the seven days to September 14.


A total of 306 new cases were recorded – the equivalent of 86.4 cases per 100,000 people, up from 72.8 in the previous week.


Other cities continuing to see increases in their weekly rate include Salford (up from 85.0 to 97.4, with 252 new cases); Manchester (up from 78.1 to 84.1, with 465 new cases); and Newcastle upon Tyne (up from 57.1 to 67.4, with 204 new cases).


Police enforcement action will be used as ‘last resort’

Police said they will use enforcement action over the lockdown measures as a last resort.


Superintendent Steve Long, of Durham Constabulary, said: “The Government has announced that further local restrictions are necessary in addition to those already in place nationally.


“We would like to thank the vast majority of people who have taken personal responsibility, done the right thing and stuck to the guidance over the last few months.


“Our officers will continue to engage with the public, explain the new regulations and encourage people to act responsibly; only then will we move to enforcement as a last resort.”


Residents advised to limit socialising in Barrow

Residents in Barrow, Cumbria, are being advised to limit socialising to no more than two households following a rise in coronavirus cases.


Cumbria County Council has reminded people in the Barrow Borough Council area to stick to the legal limit of six when meeting in groups, but also “strongly advised” that the groups should be restricted to no more than two households at any one time.


Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “The number of cases in Barrow has risen rapidly in the last 10 days, and in combination with the way we are seeing infection spreading, this is very concerning.


“Barrow is not yet seeing the level of infection in places like Oldham, but without action this is clearly where we are heading.


“The new local action we are taking today is aimed at protecting local people and stopping Barrow having local lockdown measures imposed upon it by Government.”


Bolton continues to record highest weekly infection rate

The weekly rate of new cases of Covid-19 in Bolton is now just below 200 per 100,000 people, new data shows.


A total of 546 cases were recorded in Bolton in the seven days to September 14 – the equivalent of 189.9 cases per 100,000, up slightly from 186.4 in the previous week (the seven days to September 7).


Bolton continues to record the highest weekly rate in England.


Eleven other areas of England now have weekly rates between 100 and 200 cases per 100,000 people, including Liverpool where the rate has jumped sharply from 67.5 to 107.8 with 537 new cases recorded.


All figures are based on Public Health England data published on Thursday.


Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS Covid-19 App, said it will only notify users they were a “high-risk contact” if someone who had been near them had tested positive for Covid-19.


He told MPs on the Science and Technology Committee that downloading the app was voluntary.


Asked about the distance-between-people sensitivity of the app, Mr Thompson said an alert was triggered based on medical advice, which is “around about two metres for around about 15 minutes”.


Health minister claims coronavirus contact tracing app is ‘very impressive’

Health minister Lord Bethell of Romford said the Government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app was “very impressive”.


Speaking to members of the Science and Technology Committee, he said it would play an “incredibly important” part in the contact tracing process.


Simon Thompson, managing director of the NHS Covid-19 App, told the committee the app would help users monitor their symptoms as well as alert them if they had been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.


A “check-in” function, activated by scanning QR codes, will also allow people to log where they have been, allowing Test and Trace to contact them if there had been an outbreak there.


Tests can also be booked through the app and an “isolation companion” contains advice for people required to self-quarantine.


Test and Trace chief says demand for coronavirus tests is ‘significantly outstripping UK capacity’ 


Overseas labs also being used

Baroness Harding said the Government was also able to use overseas labs to support testing capacity.

She told members of the Commons Science and Technology Committee that these, alongside others in the UK, were “surge capacity labs”.

Lady Harding said these had a capacity of “low order tens of thousands”.


Capacity restraint in labs not testing centres

Baroness Harding told members of the Science and Technology Committee that the “constraint” in the testing system was in processing and laboratories.

She said: “We have to restrict the number of people who are taking tests in the testing sites so that there’s no risk of those tests going out of date when they are processed in the labs.

“So I do understand how frustrating it feels that when you arrive in the testing site and it doesn’t look like it’s very busy and you can see it could do more, but the capacity constraint isn’t in those testing sites, it’s back in the lab.

“And it would be very dangerous to send too many samples back to the laboratory, have them not be processed and people not know what their results were.”


Mechanic drove 100 miles to test centre with no staff, tent, or infrastructure

HGV mechanic Brad Cockburn made a 100-mile round trip from Bedale, North Yorkshire, to the Doxford Park testing site in Sunderland only to find there were no staff, not even a tent or other infrastructure, at the site on the out-of-town business park.

The 28-year-old said: “There’s no organisation, it’s piss-poor performance as usual.”

His employer booked him the test as he felt he had flu-like symptoms and he cannot work until he has got the all-clear.

Mr Cockburn said: “I took this afternoon off, unpaid, and I won’t be able to work tomorrow now. They’re supposed to put these things in place to get people working again. Now they’ve got all these people congregating here and nobody to test them.”

Rob Reid, a 58-year-old cash and carry manager from Sunderland, booked a test this morning for 3.45pm, only to find there were no staff. He said: “It annoys me. My concern is about my health and it comes across that the Government is not that concerned, when they are taking bookings on the NHS website and there’s nobody here to do it.”

When another driver was asked how he felt, he simply replied: “Stressed.”


NHS staff top of list

The Government has been drawing up a list of who will be at the front of the queue for the available tests.

Baroness Harding confirmed that hospital patients were the top priority, followed by social care and NHS staff, with the three categories accounting for around 50% of tests.

Following that, testing was targeted at outbreak areas.

Among the “broad general public”, Lady Harding said: “We are looking to prioritise, within that, key workers, particularly teachers.”


‘Demand is significantly outstripping testing capacity’ – Dido Harding

NHS Test and Trace chief Baroness Harding told MPs “it’s clear from today that demand is significantly outstripping the capacity we have” to conduct coronavirus tests.


She told the Commons Science and Technology Committee that the latest capacity for diagnostic tests was 242,817.


Lady Harding said the number of people calling 119 and visiting the website to try to book tests was “three to four times the number of tests that we currently have available” – although she said that would involve some double counting with people using different phone numbers.

But she said the number of symptomatic people – the only people who should be eligible for diagnostic tests – was “significantly lower” than the number trying to get a swab.


She suggested around a quarter of those coming forward for a test did not have symptoms.


‘Failure to test has hampered efforts to get spectators back into sports venues’

The Shadow Sports Minister believes the Government’s failure over coronavirus testing has hampered efforts to get spectators back into sports venues.


Official NHS Test and Trace figures published on Thursday showed that the proportion of people in England receiving an in-person Covid-19 test result within the Government’s 24-hour target period has hit its lowest point since the middle of June.

There have also been reports of shortages in testing capacity in areas of high incidence, with the Conservative MP for Bolton West Chris Green saying people were increasingly turning up to hospital accident and emergency departments in the hope of getting a test.


Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South and the Shadow Sports Minister, said: “If we had a competently run, good, functioning system, then that would help in every aspect of our lives and that would definitely help get supporters back watching the sport that they love.


“The reason for getting that testing system right is so that we can get a bit back to normal. The failure to do that is having a huge knock-on effect to sport and a whole range of other things.”


A Covid-19 testing centre in London was in a state of “absolute pandemonium”, according to a patient who said he was turned away.

Henry Bull, 29, said he cycled around five miles from his home in Peckham to his nearest testing site in Lewisham after booking an appointment online because he had a cough.

“I biked down there for about 10, 15 minutes before my appointment time and there was just absolute pandemonium, chaos,” he said.

“The entire junction is gridlocked with cars queuing to get into it, loads of car drivers getting out and shouting at each other to move out of the way. Meanwhile, once you actually get to the site, nobody has received the QR code that you have to have to get tested.

“Lots of very angry people, lots of exasperated people shouting at each other and shouting at the staff who are doing their best, but they don’t really know what’s happening either. A pretty horrible, stressful situation all round to be honest, lots of very upset people, presumably several of whom have Covid as well so exposing a lot of us to infection.”

Mr Bull, who works in advertising, said one woman – who had a child in the back of her car and had been queuing for four hours – burst into tears when she was told they would not be seen. He said: “A woman in a car pulled up and demanded to know why it had taken so long to get to the front and why she couldn’t be seen and it was explained to her she needed the QR code and she just broke down in tears.”

Mr Bull said they were all asked to leave without getting tested, and he did not know how he would now be able to get a test.


A woman who was asked to turn around from the queue at the coronavirus testing site at Doxford Park, Sunderland, said she had booked an appointment.

The driver, from Sunderland, said: “The security guard had a right attitude. He said I had to turn round and not block the traffic.

“I’ve since been online and the site has now crashed.”

Earlier there were reports of long queues of traffic trying to get to the site.

The woman said she had queued for around 30 minutes when she was turned away, about half a mile from the site.

She said: “I’d made an appointment but didn’t get the confirmation email and I thought I would turn up just in case I was booked on.”