Coronavirus: Department of Health forced to apologise after key worker home test kits run out within minutes
The scheme hit capacity within minutes
The Department of Health has been forced to apologise after home testing kits for key workers ran out within minutes.
Matt Hancock announced on Thursday night that millions more frontline staff, as well as their families, would be made eligible for the health checks.
The Health Secretary said applying for the necessary kit would be as easy "as booking a flight".
But the initial 5,000 tests made avalable for posting to people were claimed within minutes with a message appearing on the site, saying: "Currently, only drive through tests are available."
Soon after, a second message told applicants: "Coronavirus test: applications closed."
In a tweet, the Department of Health and Social Security said: "There has been significant demand for booking tests today.
"We apologise for any inconvenience. We are continuing to rapidly increase availability.
"More tests will be available tomorrow."
A Downing Street spokesperson said: "Within two minutes of the portal opening this morning 5,000 testing kits have been ordered, and that's the available capacity for today.
“And in terms of the drive-through slots, we would anticipate 15,000 tests being done at those today, which again is the available capacity.”
He added: “We obviously extended the criteria of who was eligible, we want the capacity which we have in the system to be used.
“And you can see this morning that the system is working, people are booking slots and they're now going to be able to undergo tests.”
The spokesman said the Government was working with Amazon and the Royal Mail to deliver the testing kits to people's homes.
“The intention is to get the kits to them as quickly as possible, and again to collect them as soon as possible afterwards.”
Results would be available within 72 hours, he said.
Mr Hancock said key workers would still be able to book in tests at the over 30 drive-through centers across the country, saying the scheme was "part of getting Britain back on her feet".
Speaking before the website's closure, Mr Hancock said he hoped the scheme would improve the number of tests being carried out.
"Not as many people have been coming for (a test) as we had expected," he said.
"Of course that was a problem but its a good problem because it means we’ve been able to expand who can get a test faster than we had planned."
But the scheme's closure provoked anger from opposition MPs, with Labour's Richard Burgon tweeting: "A few days ago it was being implied that there wasn't enough demand for Coronavirus tests.
"Now the Government's own site is down due to the huge demand. Key workers have wanted these tests from the start. It's been a complete failure that tests haven't been available."
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