Children face being turned away from Covid test centres as Matt Hancock rations swabs

CHILDREN face being turned away from coronavirus testing centres after Matt Hancock said swabs would be rationed.

The Health Secretary said Covid tests would be prioritised for people with acute clinical needs and those in social care, following a nationwide test shortage.

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It means children, who are least at risk from coronavirus, are likely to be at the back of the queue.

Yesterday, no tests were available in 46 out of 48 of the nation’s worst hotspots as the fiasco spiralled.

Sites in Southend, Bury, Birmingham and Manchester were overwhelmed with families desperately trying to get tests to allow them to get back to work or school.

A backlog of 240,000 tests has now built up, which will not be cleared until autumn or beyond — when millions of people will be at risk of cold and flu symptoms similar to coronavirus.

As a result, Matt Hancock has been forced to restrict testing to hospital patients, care home residents and key workers, saying: “I don’t shirk from decisions about prioritisation.

“They are not always comfortable, but they are important.

“We’ll set out an updated prioritisation and I do not rule out further steps to make sure our tests are used according to those priorities.”

The breakdown in the system has left thousands, including doctors, nurses, care home residents and teachers all unable to get checked for the killer virus.

Meanwhile, the reopening of schools has meant entire year groups have been sent home because kids with symptoms are often unable to get a test to prove whether they have the bug or not.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Children are being sent home who cannot get tests, and parents are being forced to take two weeks off to look after them.

"We will end up in an effective lockdown. There is an escalating sense that we will end up with a return to lockdown by default."

Emma Knights, the chief executive of the National Governance Association, told the Telegraph: "Governing boards are increasingly concerned about the numbers of pupils and staff awaiting tests and the damage that this might do to parents' confidence in sending children to school."


Angry MPs today called the system a “bloody mess” after queues snaked outside testing centres.

Hundreds lined up at a walk-in unit in Southend, Essex,  but it had reportedly run out of tests by 10am.

Scores of residents were unable to get swabbed at facilities in Gorton, Manchester.

In Abercynon, South Wales, officials turned away cars from as far away as Essex, London and Brighton.

A healthcare worker at the site said: “The poor sods looked knackered when they arrived. Some of the long haulers hadn’t made an appointment either, so we weren’t able to give them the test.”

Addressing the shortages, The Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, we are processing over a million tests a week but we are seeing a significant demand for tests, including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.

"We’re targeting testing capacity at  areas that need it most.”

It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury voiced concern over the Government's "rule of six" restriction and its impact on family life.

Writing in the Telegraph, the most senior bishop in the Church of England urged the Government to follow the concept of "localism" rather than "determining the daily details of our lives".

A source close to the Archbishop said he was "deeply concerned about Christmas and the impact of the new rule.

Meanwhile, infection rates among middle-aged people have started to rise, The Times reports.

Figures published last week revealed that rates in people aged 40 – 49 reached 23 per 100,000 – the same as the concerning 20-29 age group – three weeks ago.

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