The website that allows key workers to book testing for COVID-19 if they or a family member has symptoms has closed on the same day that it was opened, as demand fromkey workers quickly outstripped supply. Its opening followed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement on Thursday which allows all key workers to register for a test, if they or a family member have symptoms of COVID.
Within two minutes of the website opening, 5000 home testing kits were ordered. Overall, 15 000 tests, the total number that were available, were booked on the same day they became open to order. Shortly after the website opened, those attempting to register received error messages saying that applications were closed. The Department of Health and Social Care apologised for ‘any inconvenience’ caused by the delay that was the result of ‘significant demand’ and promised that more tests will be available on Saturday.
The aim of this home testing is to allow up to 10 million key workers to potentially return to work safely, if they receive a negative result. The list of those who qualify as key workers is available on the government website. Scotland will be applying the new system ‘very soon’, according to First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, but that it would wait until ‘the system itself has stabilised and the current technical difficulties it’s experiencing have been resolved’. The Welsh government has already announced plans for expanding testing for key workers. Northern Ireland’s health minister has also announced the expansion of their testing programme for frontline workers in the private sector.
There is currently no test for eligibility on the website, with the government operating on trust in those applying. The website uses a registration system to collect personal details and those registering are then texted or emailed to invite them to book an appointment at a drive-through centre or request a home test kit.
On Thursday, 23 560 tests were carried out and Matt Hancock announced that testing capacity had increased to 51 121 per day. However, this still falls short of the promise of 100 000 tests per day by the end of the month – a deadline which is now only 6 days away.