Ministers face ongoing criticism over coronavirus testing, as the number of daily tests dropped below 80,000, care home staff reported difficulties in getting checked and home kits were delivered without return envelopes.
On Friday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that the government’s target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of April had been achieved, with more than 122,000 tests provided on the last day of the month – though it emerged that a third had not been carried out.
Since then, the number of tests per day dropped by more than 40,000, with 76,496 delivered in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday.
NHS England’s national medical director, Prof Stephen Powis, said: “You will see that testing capacity has ramped up very quickly over the last week or so and we are now at a very high level of testing, over 100,000 – a little bit of a dip in the weekend, but we anticipate that that testing capacity will continue to increase.”
Earlier, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, admitted that more lives could have been saved if the UK had been able to test on a large scale at an earlier date.
In an interview with BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, he was asked if there could have been fewer deaths and he replied: “Yes. If we had had 100,000 test capacity before this thing started and the knowledge that we now have retrospectively, I’m sure many things could be different.”
It comes as the Guardian learned that just 7% of the 31,000 tests delivered to care homes to test all residents and staff had been carried out so far.
Thousands of kits delivered to care homes last week were unused because of a lack of clarity about who can administer them, social services chiefs said.
Residential care homes, which are regulated by the Care Quality Commission, are not registered to carry out nursing tasks. Social services officials say they are unsure whether they are allowed to bend the rules, though the government says the tests can be administered easily by care home staff.
One social services director, who oversees hundreds of care homes in his area, said: “There’s a major flaw in this plan. Residential care staff are not registered to carry out this procedure. Yesterday not a single person was swabbed in any of our care homes. It’s another fiasco.”
Symptoms are defined by the NHS as either:
- a high temperature - you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
- a new continuous cough - this means you've started coughing repeatedly
NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days.
If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.
After 14 days, anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine. But, if anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means they're at home for longer than 14 days.
If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
After 7 days, if you no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine.
If you still have a high temperature, stay at home until your temperature returns to normal.
If you still have a cough after 7 days, but your temperature is normal, you do not need to continue staying at home. A cough can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.
Staying at home means you should:
- not go to work, school or public areas
- not use public transport or taxis
- not have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
- not go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home