The news comes as the UK sees unprecedented shortages of the self-testing COVID-19 kits as the Omicron variant of the deadly virus spreads across the UK. Many shops, pharmacies and the NHS online service have announced that no kits are available, leaving concerned and frustrated citizens being forced to attend multiple sites to check availability.
Taking to Twitter to express his concerns, Conservative MP for Wokingham, John Redwood said: “Why do so many COVID-19 test kits come from China?”
He added: “As the NHS is buying so many can they speed up more domestic production so all that cost provides more UK jobs and incomes?”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has promised action over the current shortage of Covid tests, while scientists have issued warnings over the impact of New Year’s Eve celebrations on coronavirus case numbers.
Mr Javid says the Government will triple the supply of lateral flow tests to 300 million per month by February but added that as current shortages persist “we expect to need to constrain the system at certain points over the next two weeks”.
Speaking to Sky News, Professor Ravi Gupta, clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge said: “Because, of course, we already have so many cases that therefore the probability of an individual being in a social environment on New Year’s Eve and being positive, even if they have potentially tested negative in the last 24 hours, is fairly high.”
Warning of the impact of not testing before attending New Year’s celebrations, the professor added: “The transmissions are going to be significant and, of course, the availability of tests… of lateral flow testing… is going to compound that problem.”
He ended: “So I’m personally very worried about what’s going to happen next year.”
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Ministers have repeatedly encouraged members of the public to test themselves using a lateral flow device (LFD) before attending gatherings or meeting vulnerable relatives.
However, test kits have repeatedly been unavailable online in recent days, and many pharmacies have complained of being unable to secure them.
Some pharmacies have reported staff being abused and insulted over the lack of tests.
Labour has accused the government of presiding over a “shambles”, with many members of the public struggling to obtain tests despite ministers putting testing at the centre of efforts to control the spread of Omicron.
Demand for the tests has also been boosted by a change in quarantine rules that allows people to emerge from self-isolation after seven days instead of 10, as long as they carry out two negative lateral flow tests.
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In a letter sent to MPs on Wednesday evening, Mr Javid acknowledged the intense strain being put on the system as cases of the Omicron variant continue to increase, with 183,037 new infections recorded on Wednesday.
The Health Secretary wrote: “In light of the huge demand for LFDs seen over the last three weeks, we expect to need to constrain the system at certain points over the next two weeks to manage supply over the course of each day, with new tranches of supply released regularly throughout each day.”
Amid warnings that the PCR tests used to confirm new cases of the virus have also been unavailable in many parts of the country, Mr Javid also stressed that capacity for these has increased significantly, from 530,000 a day in November to up to 700,000 a day.
Unlike in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, ministers at Westminster have opted not to place new restrictions on the public before the new year.
There is mounting concern among NHS leaders about their capacity to deal with surging cases.
A total of 11,452 people were in the hospital in England with Covid-19 as of Thursday, according to the latest NHS England figures.
Still, daily admissions are also rising with 2,082 in December the most since February 3.
There is growing evidence that omicron is causing less serious disease than earlier coronavirus variants including the previously dominant delta.
Yet some scientists are worried that the sheer number of COVID-19 cases could strain the NHS, even if the proportion of people needing treatment is smaller.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has said about 90 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 haven’t had vaccine boosters.