LONDON (AP) — A shortage of COVID-19 testing in the U.K. is jeopardizing efforts to restore medical services and prepare for a potential surge in coronavirus cases this winter, the group that represents hospitals in England said Tuesday.
Inadequate testing is leading to increased absences in the National Health Service as staff members are forced to self-isolate while they and their family members wait for test results after possible exposure to the virus, according to NHS Providers. Last weekend hospital leaders in three different cities raised concerns about testing, said Chris Hopson, the group’s CEO.
“The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests,’’ Hopson said in a statement.
The shortage comes amid a surge in COVID-19 cases across the U.K. that has pushed daily positive tests to levels last seen in late May and forced the government to impose new controls on public gatherings. Widespread testing is seen as crucial to controlling the spread of the disease because it allows those who are infected to self-isolate, while helping public health officials to identify hot spots and target their response.
The problem is that the “second wave’’ of the virus is hitting earlier than anticipated, said John Bell, a professor of medicine at the University of Oxford, who has advised ministers on medical research. Authorities underestimated the speed at which more testing capacity would be needed, Bell said, warning that the […]