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Thu, 29 October 2020

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A Health Minister Has Admitted People With Coronavirus Symptoms May Be Denied A Test Due To Rationing

A Health Minister Has Admitted People With Coronavirus Symptoms May Be Denied A Test Due To Rationing

New rules on prioritisation for testing will be unveiled by Matt Hancock focusing on key workers (PA)

3 min read

The Health Minister Edward Argar has admitted some people with coronavirus symptoms could be refused an immediate test under plans to ration them to deal with a processing backlog.

He said despite a "ramping up" of testing capacity by the government it would need to prioritise “frontline NHS care workers, teachers and similar”.

As a result, Mr Argar told the BBC: "It is possible there will be people who have symptoms who apply for a test who have to wait longer, because we are prioritising those key frontline workers who we need to keep our NHS and care system working.”

He insisted anyone with symptoms should still apply for a test, but admitted while the prioritisation plans are in place - which are due to be revealed formally by health secretary Matt Hancock later today, they may not be offered one.

"That's not saying if you don't fit into those groups and you've got symptoms, 'don't do it’,” the minister explained. 

"If you've got symptoms, apply for a test."

He said the government was hoping that "Mr and Mrs Smith" would still be able to get a test "in a timely fashion". 

Mr Argar also rubbished claims the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is pushing for a new national lockdown to deal with the surge in new coronavirus cases.

He echoed the words of the Prime Minister yesterday, who said the financial consequences of such a move would be “disastrous”.

Mr Argar said: "We are guided by the science but we're not necessarily guided by the speculation in the press.

"It's not something I've heard from Chris. And it's something the prime minister clearly doesn't want to see."

He told Sky News: “I know there's speculation in the press today. But it's not something I've seen within the department.

"The Prime Minister has been very clear about this, he doesn't want to see another national lockdown.

"He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work and get that infection rate down."

The comments follow Mr Johnson’s evidence to the liaison committee in Parliament yesterday, where he said: "I don't want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country," he told a group of senior MPs.

"We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.

"Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous."

Mr Argar also claimed the sharp rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We saw in Leicester it worked, we saw those rates come right down - it does work and it does control it at a local level.

"I don't think we are at a place where we would wish to see or need to see a national level of restrictions."

The shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said "nobody wants to see another national lockdown”, but to avoid it there needs to be a "functioning" test, track and trace system.

He told Sky News the government “is getting this wrong”, adding: "Now that we've got more people going out and about as the economy opens, people are being encouraged to go back to work, children are going to school, young people are going to university, the risk of infections spreading is greater.

"But we don't have the test, track and trace system that could keep everybody safe. So we risk further local or even national lockdowns.

"The fault of this has to be laid squarely at the feet of the government.”

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