Council leader calls for an increase in laboratory testing capacity

Council leader Cllr Keith Aspden has today written to the Health Secretary to raise concerns over the current Coronavirus testing capacity, nationally and in York, and requesting that the Government make urgent improvements across the system, particularly in laboratory capacity, ahead of university and college students returning in coming weeks.


Following reports of York residents with symptoms being unable to access home tests or book appointments at the city’s drive-through testing site in Poppleton Bar, local Public Health teams are raising alarm over the Government’s handling of the testing system. This includes the Government now capping the number of tests that can be booked until the backlog of tests in laboratories can be cleared, and testing capacity being targeted at areas with high case numbers on the Government’s ‘watch list’. This means that, due to the failure to address the national laboratory backlog, York is not currently being provided with adequate capacity to carry out the testing required to monitor case numbers, which is essential to reducing the spread of the virus.

Writing to the Health Secretary Cllr Keith Aspden commented:

“The public risk in York remains low thanks to residents, businesses and visitors who continue to follow health advice to make sure that the progress that has been made through our collective effort is maintained. This is very concerning though for us here in York and will be a particular issue for schools, universities, colleges and workplaces if testing cannot be accessed.

“I appreciate that this is an area the Government is considering nationally, however, with the return of university and college students this week in the city, this is a significant issue that needs urgently and swiftly addressing. We will continue to work in partnership with local authority and health colleagues across the region, but I would ask yourself and DHSC officials to increase the capacity currently allocated to York and elsewhere nationally, in order to ensure that the testing system can work for everyone.”

Cllr Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health, added:

"A robust system to test, trace and isolate remains essential to keep people safe as we move towards what will be a challenging winter period for the NHS. The current situation - with many people unable to access testing at all - continues to fall dangerously short of expectations.

"It is therefore deeply frustrating that the great work being done locally by our Public Health teams is being hampered by issues with the Government's testing system. It is crucial that the Government acts urgently to increase the level of testing and the laboratory capacity to analyse the tests right now to keep people safe and prevent further outbreaks.”

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