England has seen a huge demand for coronavirus tests in recent weeks, meaning people in some of the worst affected areas have been unable to get tested.
Testing centres in parts of the North East and North West - which currently have some of the highest infection rates in the country - have not had the capacity to cope, with the shortage impacting the ability of authorities to track the spread of the virus.
Last week (16 September) saw people in Bolton, Oadby and Wigston, Preston and Oldham unable to book a test, while tests were also unavailable on the government website in the remaining 10 local authorities with surging cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has outlined the criteria for rationing coronavirus tests in an effort to cope with the increasing demand. Mr Hancock confirmed that five groups will be prioritised ahead of others for testing, allowing those who need it most to be at the front of the queue.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday 21 September, the Health Secretary said that testing capacity has reached a record high at 253,521, but demand has also coincided with this expansion.
He added, “We need to prioritise tests on those who need them the most to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and make sure our health and care services and our schools can operate safely.”
Who will be prioritised?
Mr Hancock confirmed that people with acute clinical needs will be the top priority for testing, with NHS staff and teaching staff also key priorities.
The five groups, in order of priority, are as follows:
- People with acute clinical needs
- People in care homes
- NHS staff, including GPs and pharmacists
- People in outbreak areas and coronavirus hotspots
- Teaching staff with symptoms
Following this, tests will be made available to the general public when they have symptoms, with those in areas of high incidence to be prioritised first.
Children have not been included on the government’s priority list.