Lateral flow test shortage: 'Fed up' people isolating with Covid struggle to get tests by Christmas

A Dorset woman who tested positive for Covid tells ITV News Meridian she can't get a lateral flow test

People with Covid claim they are struggling to get their hands on lateral flow tests, despite new rules that would allow them to leave self-isolation early.

It is just days before Christmas, and Janice Smith, from Ferndown, Dorset, is among those desperate to find a test.

A pharmacist in her area claims demand is causing the supply chain shortage of the tests, as daily case numbers topped 100,000 on Wednesday amid the Omicron surge.

Janice explained she tested positive after returning from holiday in Egypt and has been self-isolating ever since.

Following the announcement of new self-isolation rules, she has been trying in vain to get hold of lateral flow tests in the hope of cutting short her 10-days at home.

But she told ITV Meridian she is 'fed up' and angry at the government's handling of the situation after having no luck.

The government changed the isolation rules on Wednesday so that people who have tested positive can end isolation after seven days instead of 10 if they return negative lateral flow results.

Lateral flow tests are in short supply Credit: ITV News Meridian

Janice told ITV Meridian: "Over the last couple of days, I've been looking at friends posting on Facebook asking if anyone knows where you can get a lateral flow test, everyone's saying 'no everywhere has run out'.

"I then called a number of local pharmacies, but they're all saying there's none available.

"It makes me angry, it makes me fed up with the whole system to be honest.

"I think the Government is just flying things around, they really don't know what it is that they're doing and they've made no preparation for this in any way whatsoever."

A pharmacist claims there is a "national shortage" of lateral flow tests as demand outstrips supply in the days leading up to Christmas.

However the government says it is a supply chain issue particularly affecting deliveries to pharmacies, and that there are enough of the tests to go around.

Anjala Sihota, who is a pharmacist at Gees Pharmacy in Bordon, Hampshire, said: "We're getting deliveries in drips and drabs to the point where now we can't actually order any.

"Our last box was delivered about a week ago."

People are being advised to do lateral flows - also known as antigen tests - before mixing with crowds in indoor places or visiting someone who is at high risk of getting Covid.

Pharmacists have been turning people away who are asking for lateral flow tests Credit: ITV News Meridian

The rapid antigen tests are also advised that if you’re vaccinated, but have been in contact with someone who then tests positive.

Officials have ramped up the testing messaging as families prepare to gather for the festive period, and health services feel the strain of key workers going off sick.

Anjala said she feared people would struggle to get their hands on enough tests in coming days.

She added: "We are allowed to order one box of 53 kits a day, that's the limit.

  • Pharmacist Anjala Sihota describes the shortage:

"It is quite difficult, especially with Christmas coming and people want to meet their families, they want to get tested before they meet people, which is what the Government guidelines are, and if they're unable to get a test, then obviously the panic sets in.

"They [the Government] have had to ration it, so the supplies are not coming out to pharmacies because they've had so much demand.

"There should be more but obviously they haven't been able to keep up with demand and I suppose with the new variant people are panicking more.

"I think it's going to make people scared to go out and meet family."

Soheil Shoushtarizadeh, manager of Everetts Pharmacy in Whiteley, Hampshire, said: "We've had some disruption to the service, there's a shortage in supply and a big demand, especially coming up to Christmas and the New Year (with) people wanting to see family members and loved ones.

"We are ordering them every day, the last delivery we had was on Friday afternoon and we've not had any since.

"The current up to date information is that the depot we order them from is out of stock.

  • Soheil Shoushtarizadeh, Pharmacist

"The pharmacies as far as I'm aware are limited to one pack at a time, in each pack is 56-59 tests.

"We've had to limit them to one pack at a time to each patient to meet the demand in the community.

"I've spoken to some other pharmacists in the area, and they've said if they could increase the supply to the pharmacies that would help meet the demand. 56 doesn't go a long way at this time of the year.

"Obviously being this time of the year, a bit of foresight and forward planning would have been nice. We are where we are and we have to work with what we have, so we're trying our best to meet the demand. As soon as we're getting them we're letting people know."

A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said: "Due to a supply chain issue there has been a temporary delay in some pharmacies receiving their rapid test orders. This is being resolved and normal service will resume shortly.

"Last week saw record numbers of rapid tests distributed across the country, with over 11 million test kits sent to pharmacies across the UK.

"There is no shortage of free rapid tests and there are a range of ways that people can get them to help combat the spread of Covid-19."