Key worker tests for coronavirus have run out for a second day running as the government announced the UK’s official death toll from the disease passed 20,000.
The latest figures report a total 20,319 deaths of hospital patients in the UK – a rise of 813 on the previous day, with home secretary Priti Patel describing the number as a “tragic and terrible milestone”.
The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said on March 17 a “good outcome” for the UK would be to keep the total deaths from the virus to below 20,000. The death toll then was 71.
Because the official number only records deaths recorded in hospitals, the actual number is believed to much higher than 20,319.
“The entire nation is grieving’ – Priti Patel
Patel told today’s Downing Street briefing:”As the deaths caused by this terrible virus pass another tragic and terrible milestone, the entire nation is grieving.”
The home secretary said social distancing measures must continue to try and halt the spread of the virus, warning: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
5,000 home tests supply runs out after just two minutes
Ministers are facing mounting criticism of their handling of the pandemic after the online supply of home tests for key workers ran out in just 15 minutes this morning. Yesterday, the supply of 5,000 home tests for key works available online lasted only two minutes.
Transport minister Grant Shapps led Friday’s press briefing and said 46,000 had tried to book 15,000 tests online, as new eligibility rules for key working tests came into force.
The expansion of eligibility for testing means millions more can apply for tests online – with NHS and social care staff, police officers, social workers, teachers, journalists, undertakers, supermarket and food production workers – and the people they live with – included under the new rules.
‘Significant demand for booking tests’
”We are continuing to rapidly increase availability [of tests],” said a statement from the Department of Health and Social Care on Friday, that apologised for “any inconvenience” following “significant demand for booking tests” on the new website.
“More tests will be available tomorrow,” announced the department’s Twitter account. However, this morning (April 25) the supply of home tests ran out in just 15 minutes while booking for drive-through tests was also inundated and all slots were booked-up by 10am in Northern Ireland and England.
Testing forms one of the government’s five criteria that have to be met before the lockdown and social distancing measures are eased. The latest figures show 28,760 tests were carried out on Friday. Health secretary Matt Hancock has set a 100,000 tests per day target to be reached by the end of the month.
NHS England’s medical director Prof Stephen Powis told BBC Breakfast the capacity for tests is “over 50,000 now” and repeated Hancock’s pledge, saying: “The aim is to get to 100,000 by Thursday.”
Booked test but turned away – a waste of time and fuel
The Guardian reports that some people who managed to book a test appointment online have been turned away from drive-through centres.
A key worker who travelled an hour from their Leicester home to a Nottingham test centre, told the BBC they had “sat waiting for half an hour in the queue only to be told, actually they had no more tests left”.
She continued: “I am absolutely disgusted. It is bad enough that my closest test centre is an hour away but then to waste my time and fuel…I think the government and public need to be aware that just because you have an appointment and turn up doesn’t mean you’ll get the very much needed test.”