Racing for capacity

By Simon Gentry

A ‘huge spike’ in the number of people seeking tests is behind the widely reported difficulty some are having accessing test and waits for test results.  Children returning to school and the resulting spread of coughs and sneezes – even before the weather changes – is at least one important factor believed to be behind the spike. 

The Labour Party’s Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner MP, lambasted the Prime Minister during questions in the House of Commons today, saying that the government had had months to prepare for this situation.   

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, says that there are too many people with no symptoms seeking tests and that the Department of Heath will move to prioritise those who can have a test, with health and care workers and senior school teachers at the top of the list.  Mr Hancock is also promising to hugely increase the swab processing capacity in the next few weeks in response to the apparent bottlenecks at laboratories.

The issue of testing and the threat of school closures is alarming Ministers and MPs just as they begin feel slightly optimistic about the impressive rebound in economic activity.  School closures mean that parents will not be able to return to their offices, threatening the economy.

The situation in the UK is mirrored across Europe and the world, with governments struggling to find ways of increasing testing capacity whilst reviving their economies. France has locked down Marseille and Bordeaux as the outbreaks in those cities spiral.  In Germany there have been a crisis in Bavaria where a mix-up meant that 10,000 tests could not be matched with individual patients.  In Spain, the public are increasingly angry about the high mortality rate and the authority’s inability to get control of the disease.

None of this will relieve the pressure on the Prime Minister and the Heath Secretary, but it may reassure them that they are not alone. 

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