The government is cutting back on coronavirus awareness advertising - here’s why

The government are cutting back on Coronavirus advertisements to try and slow the demand for test (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Major issues with the government’s coronavirus testing program mean that people all over the UK are struggling to book drive through tests or order home testing kits. It has now been reported that government-bought adverts encouraging people with symptoms to get tested have been “scaled back.”

Throughout the pandemic, the government has spent significant sums of money on physical and online advertising to reinforce various aspects of its approach to fighting coronavirus. This included encouraging members of the public to get tested if they think they’re experiencing covid symptoms.

Now, PoliticsHome reports that, according to a government source, the Department of Health has stripped back its advertising campaign for testing, as a response to the current issues around demand outweighing capacity.

This is reportedly part of a broader plan to reduce the number of people trying to get tested, alongside a reduction in testing appointments in areas which are currently thought to be less affected by coronavirus, and changes to the test booking website.

‘Losing control of the virus’

On 15 September, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth quizzed Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the lack of testing in Parliament, accusing him of “losing control of the virus.”

The government has been accused of failing to adequately anticipate the rise in demand for testing with children going back to school, but Hancock told the commons earlier this week that “capacity for testing is at a record high.”

Baroness Dido Harding, head of the government’s test and trace scheme, appeared yesterday to give evidence to the Commons Science and Technology committee regarding issues with testing, as reports from all over the country indicated that many people in problem-areas were struggling to access tests.

Harding told the committee that she doesn’t believe “anybody was expecting to see the really sizable increase in demand” for testing that has occured since children went back to school.

The appointment of Harding as head of the Test and Trace program has attracted criticisms of cronyism, with some questioning her suitability for the role, given a lack of healthcare expertise.

She last appeared in front of a government committee as CEO of TalkTalk to account for how the company allowed two teenagers to steal the personal details of more than 150,000 customers in 2015.