A Kent County Councillor who sits on the authority’s public health committee says the acute supply issue for Lateral Flow Tests in Thanet -and across the country – has been caused by poor government planning and he fears health repercussions if people cannot test over the Christmas period.
A surge in demand has followed new rules where fully vaccinated people identified as a contact of a positive Covid case do not have to isolate for 10 days if they do a lateral flow test every day for seven days.
Although the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has doubled delivery capacity people are still having difficulties getting the tests with many pharmacies running out of supplies.
Cllr Barry Lewis said: “It is poor planning and over-promising by government. Advice to test up to twice a day has caused a supply and demand issue with even the website to order tests going down at one point.
“The PM over-promised without organising the supply chain so it could meet demand. I have passed on people’s concerns to the appropriate authorities and these will be passed to government. This is a national issue although Thanet seemed to be one of the places to run out earlier than others.”
GPs and pharmacies are today (December 20) reporting that online orders are now going through with deliveries coming through.
UKHSA has worked with Royal Mail for a rapid expansion in delivery capacity to people’s homes and is also increasing test availability at pharmacies, PCR testing sites and local authorities. Pharmacies are now able to access 10.5 million lateral flow tests per week, an increase of 5.5 million tests per week.
UKHSA says it is working to secure hundreds of millions more LFD tests and an increase in PCR laboratory testing capacity of up to 150,000 tests per day.
UKHSA chief executive Dr Jenny Harries said: “We are very grateful to the public for stepping up and ordering tests to identify cases and protect themselves and others.
“Now, this huge operational effort will mean that almost one million people will benefit from ordering COVID-19 tests directly to their homes, every day. I want to thank everybody at the Royal Mail for their incredible response helping us deliver this massive effort at their busiest time of the year.
“Vaccination remains critical to help us bolster our defences against becoming severely ill – please remember to get your first, second, third or booster life-saving jab without delay to protect yourself, your families and your communities.”
Cllr Lewis says he hopes the Lateral Flow Test supply issue will be solved by the end of the week, adding: “Otherwise people will be going to their Christmas events without being able to get a test and that will mean obvious repercussions.”
Fellow county councillor Karen Constantine has requested information from Kent’s Public Health team about dealing with the supply issue.
She said: “As we are entering Christmas and people are expecting to visit each other in their homes, these tests are essential, and also for those that need to go out to work.
“It strikes me as ludicrous that we have no firm guidance from central government, and utterly farcical that the few steps we can take, such as self administered LFTs are hampered by lack of supply.”
KCC Public Health say it is a national issue and the supply of LFT tests is the responsibility of the government Department for Health and Social Care.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee says the unprecedented demand for test kits from people testing due to the Omicron variant, combined with precautionary testing before the Christmas period, continues with over 11 million tests having been distributed last week to pharmacies, double the amount for the previous week.
The PSNC said the continuing level of demand meant the UKHSA had exceeded its stock allocation for LFDs to be supplied via pharmacies but work to arrange further deliveries of test kits to Alliance Healthcare means more stock should be available from today (December 20).
Test can be ordered online. People can order one pack per day and a pack contains 7 tests, although there have been issues with online orders too.