PM tells Brits to test before NYE parties as 8m kits promised ahead of celebrations

29 December 2021, 17:35 | Updated: 29 December 2021, 22:04

Boris Johnson wants Brits to test themselves before heading out to party - despite a lack of availability on the Government website
Boris Johnson wants Brits to test themselves before heading out to party - despite a lack of availability on the Government website. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has urged Brits to be sensible when celebrating the New Year and take a test before partying – as the Government appeared to run out of home-delivery lateral flow devices.

The Government website showed no slots to get a free pack mailed out by the middle of Wednesday.

It suggested going to pharmacies but many shops are reporting shortages too.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said tests were in "exceptional demand" and it would not always be possible to order them throughout the day.

The rapid-result lateral flow tests are wanted ahead of New Year's Eve, where some events may require them. People self isolating can also use them to leave quarantine three days early if they get a negative result.

And despite people struggling to get a pack of tests before December 31, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday: "I think everybody should enjoy New Year but in a cautious and sensible way - take a test, ventilation, think about others but, above all, get a booster."

Read more: Slash isolation time to get people back to work, Government told

But shortly after he spoke, the Government website carried the message: "Sorry, there are no home delivery slots left for rapid lateral flow tests right now.

"You may still be able to pick up rapid lateral flow tests from a pharmacy or collection point, where these are available. Only pick up tests if you do not have symptoms.

Read more: New Covid case record set as govt says people should still enjoy NYE – 'but cautiously'

"If you have tests at home you can use these instead."

Earlier, PCR tests appeared unavailable but they were now showing as available for home delivery and at walk-in sites.

The UKHSA said: "During periods of exceptional demand there may be temporary pauses in ordering or receiving tests, to ensure we manage distribution across the system and support changing requirements for LFD and PCR tests.

The gov.uk site showed no home delivery slots for lateral flow tests
The gov.uk site showed no home delivery slots for lateral flow tests. Picture: gov.uk

"Reduced postal schedules also impact on delivery capacity over the Christmas period.

"Rapid tests are available to order directly to people's homes via gov.uk and availability is refreshed regularly throughout the day.

"We encourage people to re-visit the site every few hours if they are unable to order tests as more will become available - and to please ensure they are making use of any tests they already have at home before ordering or collecting more."

A spokesperson later added that almost eight million test kits would be made available to pharmacies by New Year's Eve.

The spokesman said: "We are delivering record numbers of lateral flow tests to pharmacies across the country, with almost eight million test kits being made available to pharmacies between today and New Year's Eve.

"We have made 100,000 more PCR booking slots available per day since mid-December and we are continuing to rapidly expand capacity - with over half a million tests carried out on 23 December alone and delivery capacity doubled to 900,000 PCR and LFD test kits a day."

Read more: 'Dangerous' loophole allows travellers to provide fake Covid test code to enter UK

Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "The failure to make enough tests available weeks after they became a requirement is a total shambles.

"People are trying to do the right thing, follow the Government's own advice and test themselves regularly, but are prevented by the Conservative Government's incompetence.

"They need to get a grip and provide enough tests so people can keep themselves and everyone else safe."

Earlier, PCR tests appeared to be unavailable
Earlier, PCR tests appeared to be unavailable. Picture: gov.uk

Despite suggesting picking up lateral flow tests from pharmacies, there have been warnings that they are running low.

Leyla Hannbeck, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said stores have been reporting low and "inconsistent supplies".

She said the arrival of 900,000 tests a day is not enough.

Ms Hannbeck told the BBC: "What our members are telling us is that demand for the lateral flow tests is very high at the moment due to the current guidelines around self-isolation.

"Pharmacies are reporting that every five minutes approximately somebody comes in to the pharmacy asking for a test.

"But, unfortunately, because of the issues around supply being patchy and inconsistent, it means that those who come for the test don't always get it, which is very stressful not just for the pharmacy team but for the patient.”