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Testing, testing...Govt announces urgent review after LBC probe

15 September 2020, 22:02 | Updated: 16 September 2020, 16:36

By Ben Kentish

The government has announced it will be reviewing the criteria for who can book a Covid-19 test in the wake of an LBC investigation.

The probe, exclusively conducted by LBC, found there were no tests available for the top 10 coronavirus hotspots in England.

But now an extended investigation has found only two of the 48 Covid-19 hotspots in England had tests available for people trying to book via the government website on Wednesday.

Only the Wirral (29th on the watchlist) and neighbouring Liverpool (33rd) had tests available.

While the government insists that there are thousands of tests being carried out in these areas, LBC's investigation exposes the difficulties facing people trying to book one.

Government sources said they were working hard to increase lab capacity but that this could take weeks.

The government is reviewing criteria for who can book coronavirus tests
The government is reviewing criteria for who can book coronavirus tests. Picture: Getty

Following the exclusive investigation by LBC, Labour MPs questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the Commons on Tuesday.

The Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathon Ashworth asked Mr Hanock why the NHS didn't use the Summer to expand NHS lab capacity for testing and "fix contact tracing."

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Mr Ashworth said: "Yesterday LBC revealed there were no tests available in Covid hotspots including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford."

In response, Mr Hancock said the government is now looking at the possibility of tightening the criteria for who is eligible for a test to prioritise only the people who most need one.

He added that there are "operational challenges" with testing which the Government is "working hard" to fix.

He said: "We've seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible."And throughout this pandemic we have prioritised testing according to need."

Mr Hancock added: "I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They're not always comfortable, but they are important.

"The top priority is and always has been acute clinical care. The next priority is social care, where we're now sending over 100,000 tests a day because we've all seen the risks this virus poses in care homes.

"We'll set out in full an updated prioritisation and I do not rule out further steps to make sure our tests are used according to those priorities."

The Department of Health said there were tests available and urged people to keep trying.

After LBC’s initial investigation was raised in the House of Commons, Matt Hancock told MPs that he hoped the problems with testing would be solved “within a matter of weeks”.

But Jeremy Hunt, Mr Hancock’s predecessor and now chair of the Commons Health Select Committee, pointed out that the Health Secretary had told the committee last week that the matter would be resolved within a fortnight.

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