Test and trace system ‘on the verge of collapse’ – Starmer

Test and trace system 'on the verge of collapse' - Starmer thumbnail

The coronavirus test and trace system is “on the verge of collapse”, Sir Keir Starmer has told Sky News.

Speaking to political editor Beth Rigby, the Labour leader said: “We’re hearing heartbreaking stories of people being told there’s no tests available, that was the position in London yesterday, or the website’s crashing as they try to access it, or they’re being told to go miles for a test.

“Nobody could pretend that that’s good governance.”

Sir Keir spoke out after people across the country were unable to get COVID-19 tests

Sir Keir added: “Here we are, at the very time we need the most effective testing system because infections are rising, we have a system that’s on the verge of collapse.”

A total of 2,460 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in the UK on Tuesday, following on from 2,948 on Monday and 2,988 on Sunday.

Sunday’s total was the largest daily figure since May, but experts have warned the comparison should be treated with caution because double the number of tests are being carried out now than there were back then.

The Labour leader spoke out after people across the country were unable to get COVID-19 tests because laboratories have reached a “critical pinch-point” in processing them.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, has apologised and said “we are doing all we can to expand quickly”.

There have been reports of people being told there are no appointments available at test centres in England and that there are no home tests kits available to send out.

‘People have relaxed too much’ – deputy chief medical officer

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said the test and trace system “is working”, but acknowledged there is “significant demand” for tests and capacity is being targeted at areas most in need.

“NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week,” she said.

“We are seeing a significant demand for tests, but if you have symptoms we urge you to get tested.

“New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily and you can help protect yourself if you wash your hands, cover your face and make space.

“We are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups – and we recently announced new laboratory facilities and new technology to process results even faster.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said problems with testing capacity will be sorted within weeks.