People struggle to get Covid-19 lateral flow tests on Freedom Day after Government website suffers ‘temporary technical glitch’
- Britons unable to order Covid-19 lateral flow tests today after ‘temporary glitch’
- People attempting to order supplies today were told to ‘come back tomorrow’
- Comes as the UK lifted almost all legal restrictions on so-called Freedom Day
Britons across the country were left unable to order Covid-19 lateral flow tests today after a ‘temporary glitch’ on the Government’s website.
Members of the public attempting to order free supplies of the at-home kits through the government portal were today told that ‘no more tests can be ordered’ and they should instead ‘come back tomorrow’.
The Department of Health and Social Care has now insisted that people can still order a lateral flow test and that the ‘temporary technical glitch’ with their site has now been rectified.
The glitch came just hours after the country eased almost all legal restrictions on the nation’s so-called ‘Freedom Day’.
Britons struggled to order lateral flow tests on the government portal today after a ‘temporary glitch’
Those attempting to order free supplies on the government site were today told to ‘come back tomorrow’
Earlier today a message on the government site read: ‘Sorry no more tests can be ordered today.
‘No more rapid lateral flow tests can be ordered online or through the call centre today.
‘Please try again tomorrow when more tests will be available’.
The government portal still allowed members of the public from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to answer the relevant questions on the site before presenting a statement confirming that the kits were unavailable.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We can confirm that lateral flow devices (LFDs) are still available to order via gov.uk website.
‘There was a temporary technical glitch with the website earlier today and this has now been rectified.’
All adults in the UK are currently entitled to pick up two free testing kits a week, which can be collected from pharmacies or ordered online.
They are intended to be used by people when they do not show symptoms of Covid-19 in order to pick up the estimated one in five cases that are asymptomatic and ensure people isolate.
Boris Johnson has put the kits at the forefront of his plans to keep the country safe as the final restrictions are lifted today.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health said anyone in England will be able to pick up a test until the end of August ‘at least’ but did not confirm if a decision to scrap the scheme had been made.
It said: ‘Further details on the provision of free rapid LFD testing will be set out in due course.’
Asked about whether the scheme will be extended past the end of August at the Public Accounts Committee today, Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the Health Security Agency, refused to rule out it being scrapped.
Adults in the UK are currently entitled to pick up two free testing kits a week through the site
She said: ‘[We are] looking at whether it is an effective and essential public health intervention going forward. Nobody has discussed charging.’
However Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth slammed the proposal to introduce charges for tests at the same time cases are surging in the country and claimed the move to introduce charges ‘beggars belief’.
He said: ‘Sajid Javid’s policy of allowing infections to rise as high as 100,000 a day will see hundreds of thousands forced into self quarantine.
‘In that context ascess to lateral flow tests will be vital. It beggars belief that the health Secretary is introducing charging for testing.’
This year, a major review found that rapid coronavirus tests may miss four in 10 asymptomatic people.
Researchers who analysed 64 studies of the effectiveness of lateral flow kits found they failed to detect 42 per cent of cases who didn’t show signs of illness.
The gold-standard Cochrane review found the tests, which give results in as little as 30 minutes, were better at catching symptomatic cases (78 per cent).
Despite this, the tests have still remained an important tool in keeping people safe amid a surge in cases.
Yesterday, Covid-19 cases across the UK soared by 52 per cent week-on-week after the UK recorded 48,161 Covid cases – up from the 31,772 cases recorded last Sunday.
But while case numbers are on the rise, the Covid death figures have seen a slight decrease.
Last week 26 people were recorded as having died from Covid, while figures released yesterday showed 25 people had died of Covid in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, hospital figures have increased, with last week’s figures showing 740 patients had been admitted with Covid on July 13, and 4,313 in the week to that date.
While yesterday’s Covid case figures were higher than the week before, they were lower than on Friday, when the UK recorded more than 50,000 daily cases of Covid for the first time since mid-January.
The figures came as one of the UK’s top epidemiologists, Professor Neil Ferguson, refused to rule out a new lockdown before Christmas, as Boris Johnson’s plans for a triumphant end to more than six months of lockdown in England collapsed into complete disarray.
HOW LATERAL FLOW TESTS ARE ONLY TRUSTWORTHY WHEN ADMINISTERED BY TRAINED STAFF
Lateral flow tests are only accurate at diagnosing coronavirus when administered by trained professionals, studies have repeatedly shown.
The tests, which give results in as little as 15 minutes, use swabs of the nose or throat. Samples are then mixed in a testing liquid and put into a plastic cassette which can detect the presence or absence of coronavirus and then produce an image of a line, the same way as a pregnancy test, to indicate whether it is positive or negative.
The Department of Health and NHS are instructing people to use the tests on themselves, despite manufacturers of some kits saying they shouldn’t be used as DIY swabs.
Both the swabbing procedure and the use of the test cassette can easily be done wrong and affect the accuracy of the test.
If the swab isn’t done for long enough, or deep enough into the nose or throat, it may not pick up fragments of virus. Medical professionals are also able to use nasopharyngeal swabs, which go right to the back of the nostril, whereas this is not advised for people who test themselves.
And if the sample isn’t properly inserted into the cassette the result might be wrong, or people may misread the display when it produces a result.
SELF-TESTING CUT ACCURACY FROM 79% TO 58%
A University of Oxford and Public Health England evaluation of the Innova lateral flow test, which is being widely used in the UK, found its sensitivity – the proportion of positive cases it detected – fell from 79 per cent to 58 per cent when it was used by untrained members of the public instead of lab experts.
Based on this evaluation, officials pushed ahead and used it for a real-world self-testing trial.
PILOT IN LIVERPOOL FOUND FEWER THAN HALF OF POSITIVES
When the same Innova test was trialled on members of the public in Liverpool – with people taking their own swabs and trained military staff operating the tests – the swabs picked up just 41 per cent of positive cases.
In the study the rapid tests detected 891 positive results, compared to lab-based PCR swabs that found 2,829 positives in the same group. This means 1,938 people got a wrong negative result from the rapid test.
The study didn’t compare this to professionally done rapid tests, but the manufacturer Innova claims its test is 95 per cent sensitive in lab conditions.
…BUT TESTING DONE BY MEDICS IN SLOVAKIA ‘REDUCED INFECTIONS’
Despite rapid lateral flow tests getting bad press, officials in Slovakia used them on 5.2million people – almost the entire population of 5.5m – in a trial that a study later estimated to have cut the country’s infection rate by 60 per cent.
The tests used were between 70 and 90 per cent accurate and all the swabs and evaluations were carried out by trained medical workers. They used deep nasopharyngeal swabs, that go to the back of the nose, whereas self-testing generally relies on a swab of only the nostril.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine researchers said that the scheme successfully weeded out coronavirus cases that wouldn’t have been found otherwise, slashing the number of cases by over half in a week during a lockdown.
HOW RAPID TESTS ARE DIFFERENT TO LAB-BASED PCR SWABS
Lateral flow tests are an alternative to the gold standard PCR test – known scientifically as polymerase chain reaction testing – which is more expensive and more labour-intensive but more accurate.
PCR tests also use a swab but this is then processed using high-tech laboratory equipment to analyse the genetic sequence of the sample to see if any of it matches the genes of coronavirus.
This is a much more long-winded and expensive process, involving multiple types of trained staff, and the analysis process can take hours, with the whole process from swab to someone receiving their result taking days.
It is significantly more accurate, however. In ideal conditions the tests are almost 100 per cent accurate at spotting the virus, although this may be more like 70 per cent in the real world.