Rapid coronavirus tests may soon be in short supply following recent changes to self-isolation rules, pharmacists have warned.
People who have had the virus are now allowed to leave isolation after seven days with a negative test, prompting an increase in demand for lateral flow tests.
England experienced a record-breaking 117,093 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, December 28, despite total patient numbers staying below January’s peak.
The warning comes from the Association Of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, who said staff and customers are stressed over the short supplies. Chief executive Leyla Hannbeck told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Every five minutes, approximately, somebody comes into the pharmacy and asks for tests.
‘But unfortunately because of the issues around supply being patchy and inconsistent, it means that those who come forward for the test don’t always get it, which is very stressful not just for the pharmacy but also for the patients.’
Delivery capacity for lateral flow tests has grown by 100% to 900,000 per day since December 18, according to the UK Health Security Agency.
Hospital admissions are yet to meet the dramatic rise in cases of the virus, even accounting for the delay between infection and hospitalisation. A full picture of the UK population’s status with the virus will only be available in January due to missing data.
The new demand for lateral flow tests comes after a series of changes to the self-isolation requirements in UK nations.
For now, those who test positive for Covid-19 must test negative using a lateral flow test on days six and seven to leave home.
Those living at home with a positive case can take a daily lateral flow test (and test negative) to avoid having to isolate.
Royal Mail does provide an online home-delivery service for lateral flow tests, but many people have struggled to book slots due to the high demand.
The festive season has also affected delivery services, so the problem may resolve itself once we enter the new year. Work and Pensions Minister Chloe Smith encouraged people to persevere with their efforts to secure a test.
If you’ve been affected by coronavirus and want up to date advice, visit the Gov.uk help page here. If you need medical help call NHS 111 or visit online