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The government’s much-lauded coronavirus testing programme for essential workers ran out of capacity and had to be “closed” within minutes of opening on Friday morning.
Health secretary Matt Hancock on Thursday announced he was expanding the government’s testing programme to include key workers and people from their households. It was a key part of the government’s strategy to meet the self-imposed target of carrying out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April – despite barely having reached a fifth of that figure as of Thursday morning.
Hancock said millions of people would be able to book an appointment online for a drive-through test at a centre close to their home.
A daily allowance of 1,000 home test kits – to be posted out to people – was to be made available as part of the push, but the gov.uk/coronavirus site ran out almost straightaway.
As scores of people logged on to apply for a test, a message informed them: “Currently, only drive through tests are available.”
But then, just minutes later, it appeared that nobody was able to book a test at all, as the site told them: “Coronavirus test: applications closed.”
Hancock admitted on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that the government had only finished coding the website yesterday.
Tests for key workers – which include teachers, refuse collectors and supermarket workers – can be delivered by Amazon within 24 hours or collected the next day by the Royal Mail.
Hancock has pledged that the government will be testing 100,000 people a day by the end of April. He said at Thursday’s press conference that the programme “was all part of getting Britain back on her feet”.
“From [Thursday],” he added, “employers of essential workers will be able to go on gov.uk to get a test for any of their workers.
“From [Friday] any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment themselves.
“This also applies for people in essential workers’ households.
“Those included will be based on the list for schools and education”.
“The whole process will be free and no one will have to pay out for the tests.”
The plan is to ramp up home testing availability to 28,000 a day by April 30, HuffPost UK understands.
The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.