Home lateral flow tests orders suspended less than 24 hours before new contact rules

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A message on the Gov.uk website says no more rapid lateral flow home tests are available. (Gov.uk)
A message on the Gov.uk website says no more rapid lateral flow home tests are available. (Gov.uk)

The government has suspended its home COVID-19 test kits ordering service because of high demand.

Thousands of people who tried to order the rapid lateral flow tests on the government website were told on Monday morning there were none available, in a major blow to the government's plan to fight the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Under new rules that come into force from Tuesday, fully vaccinated contacts of someone with coronavirus have been told to take a rapid lateral flow test every day for seven days.

People trying to order home tests on the Gov.uk website were met with the following message: "There are no more home tests available.

"Sorry, there are no more home test kits available right now. Try again later. Or, you can go back and try to book a test site appointment instead."

However, the online ordering service was suspended later.

A spokeswoman for the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) told Yahoo News UK: “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 gov.uk has been temporarily suspended to fulfil existing orders.”

An NHS Covid-19 Self-Test Kit, containing a lateral flow test, is arranged for a photograph in Brenchley, south east England, on April 5, 2021. - From April 8, people living in England will be able to access two free rapid coronavirus tests per week, a measure aimed at curbing symptom-free virus spread. (Photo by BEN STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
People trying to order lateral flow COVID-19 home tests from the government website were told there are none available. (AFP via Getty Images)

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “We were told that there were plenty of tests available. This is a total shambles and needs to be resolved urgently.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Testing is absolutely vital in keeping us safe and allowing people to make safe choices.

“The government’s inability to procure properly and plan for civil contingencies is reckless. Boris Johnson has his priorities in the wrong place.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted that Boris Johnson had his priorities in the wrong place. (Twitter/@AngelaRayner)
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted that Boris Johnson had his priorities in the wrong place. (Twitter/@AngelaRayner)

One person said on Twitter: “Tried to order a lateral flow test kit and the NHS site says they have no more! What’s going on!”

Prime minister Boris Johnson insisted lateral flow tests had not run out. He said on Monday: “They can get those tests, we do have a ready supply of lateral flow tests.

“If you can’t get one online for any reason, then there are ample supplies in the shops. But what I think, if I may say so, what that also shows is that people are doing the sensible thing, and getting tests as well.”

Johnson confirmed on Monday that the first person in the UK has died with the Omicron variant.

The lack of home testing kits isn't the only issue facing the government on Monday.

The NHS vaccination booking site crashed as hundreds of thousands of people try to book their booster jabs.

The message for those trying to book boosters on the NHS website on Monday morning. (NHS)
The message for those trying to book boosters on the NHS website on Monday morning. (NHS)

Those trying to book their booster on Monday morning were greeted with a "You are in a queue" message on the site.

The NHS has told people to try again later or on Tuesday to secure a booster appointment.

There were also issues with booking boosters through the site on Sunday, as demand surged following Johnson's announcement that all adults could come forward for a third jab.

The government is aiming to give boosters to one million people each day from Monday in an effort to halt what Johnson called a "tidal wave" of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Read more: 7 graphs that explain why Omicron is such a threat to the UK

On Sunday evening, shortly after Johnson’s announcement, the NHS booking site crashed under the demand for boosters.

A health worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 booster jab to a woman at a vaccination centre. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A health worker administers the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 booster jab to a woman at a vaccination centre. (PA)

A statement on the website said: “The NHS website is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve these issues. Thank you for your patience.”

On Monday, some of those trying to book say they have been in an online queue with more than 5,000 others for five minutes before filling in their information, only to return to an initial start-up page.

The main booking page reads: “You are in a queue. Lots of people are trying to book an appointment at the moment.”

The NHS in England advised people to try later or on Tuesday.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon warns Scotland faces 'tsunami' of Omicron infections

In a tweet, the health service said: “The COVID vaccine booking service is currently facing extremely high demand so is operating a queuing system.

“For users aged 18-29, please be aware that booking opens on Wednesday 15 December.

“For all others experiencing waits, we would advise trying again later today or tomorrow.”

It comes on the first day that 30 to 39-year-olds in England can officially book the jab.

The service had already booked more than 140,000 vaccine appointments on Monday, NHS Digital said, with people waiting several minutes.

On Monday, health secretary Sajid Javid said the spread of Omicron through the UK is “something we’ve never seen before”.

He said the variant is “spreading at a phenomenal rate”.

He was speaking as guidelines urging people to return to working from home if possible returned on Monday.

Javid said Omicron infections are continuing to double every two to three days and that 10 people with the variant are in hospital in England.

In a prerecorded address to the nation on Sunday evening, Johnson said the UK “must urgently reinforce our wall of vaccine protection” as he set a new deadline of offering everyone over the age of 18 a booster by the new year.

He said scientists had discovered that being fully vaccinated is “simply not enough” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus mutation and that, without a lightning speed mass booster campaign, the NHS could be overwhelmed.

A Covid-19 vaccination centre sign displayed outside a centre. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The government plans to give boosters to one million people a day in the fight against Omicron. (PA)

The mission to administer millions more jabs by 31 December will see 42 military planning teams deployed across every health region.

Extra vaccine sites will be opened and additional mobile units deployed, clinic opening hours are to be extended to allow people to be jabbed around the clock and at weekends, while thousands more vaccinators will be trained.

The announcement comes as the UK COVID alert level was raised to Level 4, up from Level 3, following a rapid increase in the number of Omicron cases being recorded.

Watch: Boris Johnson sets booster target in face of Omicron 'tidal wave'

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