Birmingham Covid-19 test fears after surge in demand

A leading professor in Birmingham has slammed the way testing is taking place in the country and says there are “underlying issues”.

This comes after there has been a massive demand for tests, leading professors and other medical professionals to speak out.

Professor Alan McNally, director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were “clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about”, plus a surge in demand for tests.

“I think there is a surge in demand (and) I think our stated capacity is very different from actually how many tests can be run in a given day,” he said.

“It’s very worrying that we seem to be in a situation before really we’ve come into autumn and winter where we’ve maxed out the number of tests we can do in the country, and that is very concerning.”

But he said a surge in demand for tests “was always going to happen at this time of year”.

He added: “Anyone with a child will tell you that respiratory infections peak as schools go back in September.

“The worry is that we are not getting clear information on where the problems are and it seems that there’s been a lack of foresight and planning for this to occur.”

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who has been advising ministers, said the speed at which more people would need tests had been underestimated and warned that the problem could get worse.

It comes amid signs of strain on testing capabilities causing large queues, people reporting they have been unable to get tests and others being offered tests hundreds of miles from their homes.

The problems are also contributing to staff absences, with some health workers having to self-isolate because they or members of their household are unable to get tests.

Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think what’s going wrong is the second wave.

“A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.

“So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted last week that there had been “challenges in access to tests” but insisted that “the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast it was “unacceptable” that some people were struggling to get tests, and “much more work needs to be undertaken with Public Health England”.

She said more testing slots and home testing kits were being made available and the “majority of tests” were available within a 10-mile radius.