Health secretary blames British public for shortfall in coronavirus testing capacity

Health secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons; Parliamentlive

Health secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons; Parliamentlive - Credit: Archant

Matt Hancock has blamed the British public for a recent dearth of available coronavirus tests saying that people not showing symptoms were wrongfully getting tested.

The health secretary insisted the government Test and Trace system was 'excellent' despite reports of people being asked to travel up to 650 miles for a swab.

Appearing on Sky News, Hancock said: 'In the last couple of weeks we've seen an increase in demand, including an increase in demand from people who are not eligible for tests, people who don't have symptoms.

'We've seen an increase of about 25% of people who are coming forward that don't have symptoms and aren't eligible.'

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On Tuesday, a NHS Test and Trace director admitted the system was suffering from a 'critical pinch point'.

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Sarah-Jane Marsh, director of testing for NHS Test and Trace, insisted all testing sites had capacity but that labs which process the results were struggling to keep up with demand.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Hancock said: 'I've even heard stories of people saying 'I'm going on holiday next week, therefore I'm going to go and get a test'.

'No. That is not what the testing system is there for.

'The testing system is there to control this epidemic and we've got to be firmer I'm afraid with the rules around eligibility for testing.

'We were able to be quite relaxed about that.'

Speaking to Times Radio, he added: 'We're going to be clearer and stricter about the eligibility requirements for getting a test.'

Hancock did not immediately spell out how.

Questioned over whether the system was failing, he told Sky News: 'I completely reject the accusation, in fact quite the contrary.'

He said the UK has the biggest system per capita in Europe and the highest testing capacity 'we've ever had'.

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