Matt Hancock attempt to test essential workers for coronavirus has already run into problems, as those seeking tests were told that applications had closed and home testing kits had run out.
From 6am on Friday morning Hancock promised that up to 10 million essential workers and their families would be able to apply for a drive-in test or home-testing kit.
But within three hours of the site launching, anyone accessing the self-referral test site was told that applications had closed.
A message said: “You cant currently register for a Covid-19 test. Please check back here later.”
The Labour MP Toby Perkins, shadow minister for apprenticeships, was among many who received the message.
The problems took the gloss off Hancocks launch of the new self-referral system, which he said was “critical” to ramping up testing.
Speaking on BBC Radios Today programme before the problems emerged he said: “If you have symptoms or somebody else in your household has symptoms, then you can go online to gov.uk and self-refer for a test – thats a new system up and running this morning.”
He said until now there had not been enough people coming forward for tests despite the increase in capacity. He said: “Its a good problem to have, because it means that we can then expand the amount of those who are eligible and critically weve been able to bring in this new online booking system that opened, six oclock this morning, so that if youre an essential worker, you can just book yourself instead of going through what was a quite a complicated route through your employer.”
He added: “It was always part of the plan to bring in this new booking system. We only finished writing the code yesterday. So its been an unbelievable effort by the technical people to build this new system … The reason that the increase was pretty slow at the start of the month was because weve been building these systems to automate the testing, automate the labs and the IT systems that are needed. So were ahead of the plan, but you know, many a slip between cup and lip.”
Asked whether he thought the government would meet the target of 100,000 tests a day by next Thursday, Hancock said: “I do, yes, but nothings guaranteed in life.”