Earlier reports claimed that UK health officials were drawing up a prioritisation list for coronavirus testing; Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that the system had “huge problems” as it has faced a “colossal” spike in demand.
According to sources, government ministers have proposed handing over the running of the testing service, which was up until now entirely “in-house”, to a logistics firm, amid an increased demand for COVID-19 testing.
“At the moment, the management of NHS Test and Trace has been in-house, but, as we go into winter, we need experts in this area to take it forward,” a government source was quoted as saying.
Logistics companies such as DHL and Amazon are anticipated to be bidding for the lucrative contract to manage the “end-to-end” supply chain, with a tender to be issued sometime in October.
The UK Department of Health and Social Care has already released a notice calling on potential bidders, writes the publication, that says:
“In order to significantly scale up the number of daily tests as well as making the operations more efficient, we are looking for an end-to-end management of all associated supply chain and logistics processes along the chain.”
The report comes as the UK government has pledged efforts to deliver 500,000 coronavirus tests a day.
The country’s test and trace system has been swamped, and current figures show that just one in three people in England are getting the result of their tests within 24 hours, down to half from the levels reached just a week earlier.
Baroness Harding, who heads the UK’s Test and Trace, defended the system, as she told MPs on 17 September that modelling carried out by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had not suggested it would be facing such a spike in demand for testing.
Although data shows demand is currently outstripping supply by three or four times,
“I strongly refute that the system is failing”.
Previously, as the UK Justice Minister Robert Buckland acknowledged that the country was struggling to meet the demand for testing, reports claimed the government was considering rationing coronavirus testing if the health crisis exacerbates further.
According to a report by The Telegraph, health officials were working on a prioritisation list set to limit routine testing to hospital patients, care homes, key workers and schools.
One of the reasons cited for the problems plaguing the system was a surge in people seeking tests despite not having been contacted by NHS Test and Trace and not displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
The demand for increased coronavirus testing comes as new restrictions are being set in place to control the spread of the respiratory disease in the north-east of England. Currently, the total number of people in lockdown has surpassed 10 million. The measures cover Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham, and began at midnight.
In line with the protocols, residents are banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people outside their own households, as all entertainment venues are to close at 10 pm.
Furthermore, there is a nation-wide rule of six limit in place on social gatherings as of 14 September.
The measures came after the United Kingdom recorded nearly 4,000 new coronavirus cases in a day for the first time since the start of May, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the Government was doing everything possible to avoid a second national lockdown, which would be financially “disastrous”.