Covid-19 system 'working well' – despite patients being sent 100 miles for tests

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has claimed the Government’s coronavirus testing system is working “well” despite suggestions that people are being directed to centres more than 100 miles away.

Mr Hancock admitted there are “operational challenges from time to time” with the regime, after a postcode analysis by the BBC showed some people are being told the closest available tests are hours from home.

The broadcaster said this shows the Government is rationing tests, while public health experts believe any restrictions will lead to the start of new spikes being missed.

Mr Hancock told Sky News: “At the moment the system works well. Of course there are operational challenges from time to time but it works well.

“And we’re finding a higher and higher proportion of people in the country who have coronavirus and getting them tests so they can be looked after.

“But absolutely, we need to roll out more testing – we have done throughout this crisis and today’s another step in solving some of those problems with the existing technology.”

He claimed the issue was part of the reason why the Government was investing in trials of quicker Covid-19 tests after it committed to a £500 million support package for 20-minute tests and efforts to explore the benefits of repeat testing.

The money will go towards expanding trials of the speedy no-swab saliva test in Southampton and elsewhere in Hampshire, and launching a repeat testing trial in Salford, Greater Manchester.

One professor believes this change should have been made over the summer when the country was “relatively Covid-secure”.

Professor Alan McNally, from the University of Birmingham, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think the time is right. I think the time was right to think about scaling up testing to the wider community and asymptomatic testing over the summer when we were relatively Covid-secure, knowing that autumn and winter would come.

“Ideally we would be far more advanced in our ability to handle what we’re already beginning to see, an increase in requirement for Covid testing and respiratory infection testing.”

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