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Overwhelming demand causes COVID-19 test site to temporarily close

Community pharmacy teams in England were eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 test on the government website from today (April 24), but within hours applications closed temporarily.

Free COVID-19 tests have been extended to all “essential workers” showing symptoms of the virus and for symptomatic “members of their household”, the government announced last week (April 17).

As of yesterday (April 23) employers of essential workers are able to book an appointment on behalf of staff members who are eligible for the test. A self-referral service website through which such workers can schedule a test themselves launched today.

However, many people trying to access the site to book a test have been having difficulties as the site has already closed for applications – just hours after opening for registration.

In a tweet earlier today, the DH said there had been “significant demand for booking tests today”. It added that it “apologises for any inconvenience” and is “continuing to rapidly increase availability” and that “more tests will be available tomorrow.”

A statement on the self-referral website reads: “You can’t currently register for a COVID-19 test. Please check back here later,”

C+D has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) for more information on the availability of tests.

Although the government’s list of key workers does not mention pharmacists and pharmacy teams by their professional titles, it was confirmed to C+D last month (March 20) that community pharmacy professionals fall under the “distributors of medicines” label.

People who test negative for the virus will then be reassured that they are safe to return to work if they feel well enough to do so, the DH said in a statement published earlier this week (April 23)

Drive-through sites

Essential workers can use the “new portal” on the government website to enter their details and will receive “a text or email the same day”, inviting them to either book a drive-through testing appointment or receive a home testing kit, the announcement said.

The availability of home testing kits will “initially be limited”, but more will be made available “soon”, according to the announcement, although no timeframe has been specified.

There are currently more than 30 drive-through testing sites across England, with the aim that people will not have to drive more than 45 minutes to get to a site, the DH said.

As well as this, a “network of new mobile testing units is being rapidly established”, the DH said.

“Test results from the drive-through sites will be sent out by text within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests,” it added.

Do you plan on requesting a COVID-19 test?

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