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Coronavirus: Test durations are getting longer in England

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The government says there is a huge demand for coronavirus tests

People who use coronavirus test centers in the community are waiting longer for their results, the figures show.

Only a third of the tests performed on the community came back within 24 hours of the week leading up to 9 September.


7;s down from two-thirds the week before, NHS Test and Trace said.

Access to community testing has had to be rationed because labs are struggling to keep up with demand, but these are the first evidence attempts that are happening, taking longer to process.

There are three types of community testing centers – drive-throughs, walk-in centers, and mobile devices deployed in hotspot areas.

All three saws increase in turnaround times.

  • Average delivery times for regional drive-in centers increased from 20 to 27 hours, with 38% returning within 24 hours
  • For local walk-in centers, the average was 35 hours, with only one in five results delivered in 24 hours
  • Mobile devices were at their best with an average of 26 hours, up from 19 the week before. Approx. 38% of the results were given within 24 hours.

During the week, 360,000 tests were performed in these three settings, up from approx. 320,000 the week before.

The release of delivery times comes when an increasing number of people complain that they cannot access tests at all.

Reservation of slots at test sites as well as the availability of kits sent out to people’s homes is limited throughout the UK because laboratories are unable to keep up with demand.

This has meant that testing has had to be prioritized for high-risk areas, including nursing homes and areas where there are local outbreaks.

Experts warn that the problems will limit Britain’s ability to contain the virus.

Hospital laboratories that process tests for patients and NHS staff are not affected by the problems. Nearly nine out of 10 tests are rotated in 24 hours.

The government said the test capacity would increase. Currently, 375,000 tests can be processed per day – although only about 160,000 of these are in the laboratories that process community tests.

Two new laboratories are due to open soon, which will bring the total capacity to 500,000 by the end of October, with two more scheduled for early 2021, the government said.

NHS Test and Trace chief, Baroness Dido Harding, said: “We are working tirelessly to increase test capacity so that anyone who needs a test can get one.

“I can not stress enough how important it is that only those with symptoms book tests. The service is there for those who experience a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss or change in taste or smell.

“If you have no symptoms but are thinking or have been told by the NHS Test and Trace that you have been in contact with someone with the virus, you should be at home but not book a test,” she said.

“We need everyone to help make sure tests are there for people with symptoms who need them.”

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