Essential workers to receive ‘priority’ amid Covid testing shortage

Humza Yousaf has warned that the testing system does 'not have an infinite capacity' amid surging levels of infections.

Essential workers to receive ‘priority’ amid Covid testing shortage iStock

The health secretary has warned people they may have to “wait a little bit longer” for PCR testing in the midst of rising levels of coronavirus infections.

Humza Yousaf has warned that the test system does “not have an infinite capacity”, after it emerged there was limited PCR testing slots available across Scotland on Wednesday, according to the UK Government website.

It follows several instances over the festive period where people have not been able to order lateral flow test kits, with a message appearing on the UK Government’s website urging the public to try pharmacies.

The shortages come as Scotland reported almost 16,000 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday – the highest daily total in the pandemic so far.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has now said some testing slots are now being prioritised for essential workers – such as those working in the NHS or public transport – insisting this is a “sensible step to take at this stage”.

Humza Yousaf, appearing on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, rejected the suggestion that the Covid testing system is ‘on the brink’.

He said: “I wouldn’t use that characterisation.

“The testing regime is undoubtedly under significant, significant pressure; that is why we have had to prioritise essential workers.

“We don’t have an infinite capacity when it comes to testing so, when we reach that capacity, it is important we prioritise those essential workers.

“So, yes, you may have to wait a little bit longer than you normally would pre-Omicron for a test, but please keep trying because new slots become available on the website throughout the day.

“I don’t think people expect us to have unlimited capacity.

“I think everybody would recognise we have one of the best testing regimes in the entire world.”

Yousaf admitted reports that UK health secretary Sajid Javid “privately admitted” there is a worldwide shortage of Covid tests are “deeply concerning”.

He confirmed that the UK Government is seeking to increase capacity at its Lighthouse laboratories over the coming weeks.

The health secretary added: “Instead of speculating on rumours, I will take it up personally and privately with Sajid Javid, because I would be concerned if there were worldwide shortages.

“But the messages I am getting from the UK Government are certainly that they are looking to add capacity in the days and weeks ahead.”

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