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by Andrew Learmonth
13 December 2021
Demand for lateral flow tests soars as health secretary warns of 'inevitable' Covid restrictions

Demand for lateral flow tests soars as health secretary warns of 'inevitable' Covid restrictions

With new Covid restrictions likely to come in force this week, demand for lateral flow tests has soared.

Scotland’s health secretary Humza Yousaf has revealed he is in “ongoing discussions” with the UK government over a widespread shortage of the kits. 

Anyone trying to order the test from the NHS website has been told that they are currently unavailable. 

The UK government has said while there are plenty of tests, there are difficulties with the distribution. 

Asked about the problems this morning, Boris Johnson said: “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.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the problems were ”simply not good enough.”

She added: ”Testing is crucial in controlling the spread of the virus, particularly given the threat posed by the Omicron variant. 

"If we are to keep people safe then we need to ensure that everyone can access testing swiftly and easily.   

"We need the UK government to fix their website immediately and to do all it can to ensure that this is not repeated. The Scottish Government should also ensure that lateral flow tests are available from local pharmacies.  

"There can be no room for further incompetence in our response to the Omicron variant." 

On Twitter, Humza Yousaf wrote: “We're in ongoing discussions with UK Govt urging them to resolve issues around ordering LFD test kits."

He urged people to use the NHS website to find local sites to pick up the tests. 

"Check ahead where possible, demand will be high," he said.

Earlier, Yousaf told the BBC that he’d also been speaking to the UK government about more funding for business impacted by the restrictions, and for more help from the military. He said a request from army assistance had been with ministers in London for “a few weeks now”.

Speaking about the impact on the health service of speeding up the vaccine booster rollout, Yousaf said: “We’re going to have to strain every sinew that we possibly can in order to ensure we meet (the target).

“That includes potentially having to move NHS staff away from other core duties to do this.”

Meeting the target would, he added, mean increasing the number of boosters from 40,000 to 70,000 per day.

Yousaf also said the Scottish Government wanted “as much support from the Treasury” as possible after warning “already there has been an impact on businesses through some of the advice that has been issued”.

He was speaking ahead of the First Minister’s statement to parliament tomorrow. Nicola Sturgeon is set to update MSPs on any change to the pandemic rules and plans to massively expand the booster jab programme. 

Asked what Sturgeon might announce, Yousaf said: “I think it’s inevitable we will announce additional protective measures.

“I would be reluctant to get into detail on that because we’re working through that detail. The First Minister will rightly update parliament first tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have called for mass vaccination centres to be re-opened. 

Douglas Ross said: “Mass vaccination centres were game-changing in delivering the first round of Covid jags. The number of jags getting into people's arms went through the roof once those venues were opened.

"The rapid rollout of mass vaccine centres and more drop-in clinics is now a necessity. It is mission critical that the booster jag programme accelerates to win the race between the vaccine and the virus.

"We urge the Scottish Government to do whatever it takes to increase the pace of the booster jag rollout because that is likely to be the crucial difference between avoiding or introducing stricter restrictions.

"In Tuesday's Covid update, we need Nicola Sturgeon to launch a full-scale mobilisation of every available member of staff and volunteer to accelerate the booster jag scheme urgently."

The row came as the Prime Minister revealed the death of a patient with Omicron. 

Speaking during a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, in west London, Johnson said: "Sadly yes Omicron is producing hospitalisations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron.

"So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that's something we need to set on one side and just recognise the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters."

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