Great Britain: Test shortage before New Years Eve celebrations

Status: 12/30/2021 1:29 p.m.

The British government urges people to celebrate the turn of the year and test themselves beforehand. But tests are in short supply on the island. The number of new infections in the country is increasing enormously.

By Gabi Biesinger, ARD-Studio London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson disappeared from the scene for about a week. Now he is touring vaccination centers again and driving the booster campaign. “We are seeing increasing numbers of infections, especially with Omikron. But we can also see that the course of the disease is milder and that the booster vaccinations really help,” he says.

Gabi Biesinger
ARD-Studio London

Around 32 million people in the UK have already received the third vaccination. And unlike in the regions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where there are, for example, empty football stadiums, maximum limits for meetings and restrictions on catering, the government in England is relying on booster vaccination as pretty much the only measure against Omikron.

Rapid tests are in short supply

Despite the rising record number of infections, the Prime Minister sees no reason to forego New Year’s Eve parties: “Enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations – but with caution. Test yourself beforehand, ventilate and get the booster,” says Johnson.

But tests are now in short supply in pharmacies and drugstores. Free antigen tests for at home are currently hard to get, says pharmacist Vishwa Vyas: “Many pharmacies have supply problems and some customers are very angry. They say: We are asked to test ourselves daily. How can it be there are no tests? ”

PCR tests are also hard to come by

Appointments at PCR testing sites across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also not available – not even for healthcare workers. The doctor George Wilder described in the BBC that he was currently suffering from Covid-19, and that his wife, who also works in a clinic, had to isolate herself and could not be freed:

In fact, my wife could go to work if she could book a PCR test and it came back negative. She is really absent from her OR team, she is a third of the staff there. It’s very annoying that you can’t get PCR tests and even lack the antigen tests that could give us a clue of what to do. ”

The immunologist Prof. Peter Openshaw from Imperial College in London is very concerned about the lack of testing facilities so shortly before New Year’s Eve. “We know how the virus is best transmitted,” he says. “And when crowds of people huddle together in poorly ventilated rooms and shout something to each other while listening to loud music, then that is the absolutely perfect distribution situation for this highly contagious virus.”

Huge increase in corona cases

The number of new infections in the UK is skyrocketing. The authorities recently reported a daily record of 183,037 cases – a good 50,000 more than before. This includes new infections over five days in Northern Ireland, where there was no current data due to the holidays, but in the largest part of England alone 138,287 people tested positive for the virus in one day. Scotland also reported a daily record with 15,849 cases.

Around 10,000 people are currently in English clinics with Covid-19, 50 percent more than in the previous week. As a precaution, so-called Nightingale centers are now being set up again in the parking lots in front of eight central hospitals in England – tent hospitals that can be quickly activated if necessary.

In addition, facilities such as fitness studios or training centers are to be identified that could be converted if necessary for up to 4,000 patients. But if the nursing staff is sick or is in quarantine at home due to a lack of tests, more beds are unlikely to be of any use.

UK testing shortage ahead of New Years Eve celebrations

Gabi Biesinger, ARD London, 30.12.2021 · 12:56 pm

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