Covid Scotland: Lateral flow test shortage amid surge in Omicron variant

People attempting to order home testing kits from the UK Government were hit by problems and an apparent supply shortage this morning.

When ordering lateral flow test kits, the order form states that no more are available, raising concerns of a nationwide shortage amid a surge in the Omicron variant.

The UK Government denied there was a shortage, stating ordering had been paused to fulfil existing orders but that there was enough stock to meet demand.

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In Scotland, guidance from the Scottish Government is for individuals to self-test for Covid-19 before they leave the house, every time they do so.

There is a shortage of LFT tests

This is predicated on the assumption of easy access to testing, but it is not known what the capacity for home testing kits across the UK is, or how secure the supply chains are.

A shortage in the available tests would undermine public health guidance and the Covid-19 passport, which asks for either proof of full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test result.

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Deputy first minister John Swinney said last week: “We want people to increase the frequency of the use of lateral flow tests, away from the two times per week to much more frequently when they are socialising and interacting with others.

A screenshot of the error message on the lateral flow test order form.

"Personally, I am now doing a lateral flow test every day I am going out with the prospect of meeting other members of the public outside my household.

"I would encourage others to do exactly the same, because that gives me confidence I'm protecting my household and it gives me confidence I'm protecting other people."

Reacting to the lack of available tests, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie labelled the situation “simply not good enough”.

She said: “Testing is crucial in controlling the spread of the virus, particularly given the threat posed by the Omicron variant.

“If we are to keep people safe then we need to ensure that everyone can access testing swiftly and easily.

“We need the UK government to fix their website immediately and to do all it can to ensure that this is not repeated. The Scottish Government should also ensure that lateral flow tests are available from local pharmacies.

“There can be no room for further incompetence in our response to the Omicron variant.”

Responding to the shortages, health secretary Humza Yousaf said there were “ongoing discussions” around the home testing kits.

On Twitter, he said: “We're in ongoing discussions with UK Govt urging them to resolve issues around ordering LFD test kits. Reminder, you can use link below to enter your postcode & find local sites where LFDs can be picked up. Check ahead where possible, demand will be high.”

He later added: “We are aware that the UK Government has taken the decision to temporarily close the ordering of Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) through due to very high demand.

"This is in part due to a general increase in demand for tests across the UK in response to the growing number of omicron cases, as well as the UK Government policy in England to recommend daily LFD tests for close contacts of positive cases instead of self-isolating.

"The UK Government is working to have the booking portal open again as soon as possible. Officials are exploring whether we can stand up additional test collection sites over the coming days.

“People are able to continue to pick up test kits at local walk-through and regional drive through test sites, pharmacies and some local community collection sites without a booking, although we are monitoring the situation at these outlets for potential issues.”

The introduction of more measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in Scotland was also described as “inevitable” by Mr Yousaf on Monday morning.

This could be in the form of a further roll-out of the vaccine passport to more hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants and cafes, but could also see limits on the number of people allowed to mix socially indoors.

Nicola Sturgeon is set to announce further measures in a statement to the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said: “Everyone who needs a lateral flow test can collect test kits – either at their local pharmacy, some community sites and some schools and colleges.

“Due to exceptionally high demand, ordering lateral flow tests on has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders.”

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