A professor who has been advising the Government on coronavirus says the Second Wave has begun and will get worse as we head into winter.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, who has been overseeing the Government’s antibody test programme and advising ministers, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that a “second wave” of Covid-19 had led to a surge in demand for tests.
He said: “I think what’s going wrong is the second wave.
“A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.
“So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.”
Sir John said there would be a “significant increase” in testing capacity over the next two weeks.
“But this will get worse because of course we haven’t hit winter yet – we haven’t all started to sniffle, get fevers, get colds, and that’s going to add additional confusion to the problem,” he said.
“The demand will go up. The real question is whether they can get supply in a position where it can outpace demand, and that’s the challenge at the moment.”
Sir John told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s aim to test millions of people per day in rapid testing would come in stages.
A report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) said the UK has drawn up plans to eventually carry out up to 10 million Covid-19 tests a day by early next year.
Sir John said: “Let’s back off the 10 million a day,” adding: “It’ll be two or three million I think, in the first instance.”
His comments come after the Government this week set out tough new rules to suppress the increase in coronavirus cases.
And there is speculation even tougher rules could come in – such as shielding for 4.5million people and a 9pm curfew.
The health minister for Wales says the nation could be back in lockdown within weeks.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “wrong to say” that there were no tests available after she was quizzed about the long delays in trying to book a test in Bolton where the infection rate is the highest in England.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “Tests are available, you’ve heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen the teams that have been working on this.
“Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.
“I think it is wrong to say tests are not available, new book-in slots are being made available every single day, mobile testing units are being made available.
“And on top of that home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas.”
The Government is “surging capacity” in local lockdown areas and tests are available within a 10-mile radius, Ms Patel said.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said it was unacceptable that people have been unable to get tests, adding: “Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas.
“As a Government we work with Public Health England to surge where there is demand in local hotspot areas and we continue to do that.”
On access to testing, she said the majority of tests are available within a 10-mile radius.
“It seems to me there’ll be extreme cases where people can’t get to test locations within that radius but that doesn’t mean that Public Health England are not working night and day to boost capacity,” she added.