Coronavirus: Tens of thousands more book tests in England

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Tens of thousands of people have booked coronavirus tests after the government expanded who can apply in England.

Care home residents and staff, people over 65 and anyone who cannot work at home are now among millions eligible to be tested if they have symptoms.

Some 14,700 home tests and 33,000 drive-through appointments were booked on Wednesday, the government said.

It has repeatedly said it is aiming to reach its target of 100,000 tests a day by Thursday.

The expansion in eligibility beyond just essential workers and hospital patients means 25 million people can now book through the government’s test-booking website.

All 14,700 home test kits made available on Wednesday at 08:00 BST were fully booked in 90 minutes, Downing Street said.

A spokesman added that 33,000 people had booked in for tests at drive-through centres by 09:00 BST, and said that the website is still accepting bookings.

Testing capacity has now increased to 73,400 a day, according to Downing Street, though home testing kits and appointments at regional centres in Wales ran out around an hour after Wednesday’s slots launched for booking.

The Department of Health promoted available testing appointments at a number of sites across England and Scotland on Wednesday afternoon, suggesting supply was outpacing demand in some areas.

But differences between the UK nations on testing emerged as Wales said it would not follow England in testing care home residents and staff who are not displaying symptoms.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 250,000 tests a day target remained “an aspiration” in response to questions from Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Mr Raab said that, while the goal was still in place, he would not confirm when it would be reached.

“The key point is the 100,000 milestone is only the first stepping stone towards testing, which is essential to the wider testing, tracking and tracing regime we’ll need as we transition to the second phase [of combating the epidemic]”, he added.

Mr Johnson missed Prime Minister’s Questions after he and fiancee Carrie Symonds announced the birth of a healthy baby boy in London but has already returned to work at No 10, his official spokesman said.

The PM held a “constructive” phone call with Sir Keir on Wednesday afternoon, he said, adding that the pair have agreed to continue speaking about the national effort to defeat coronavirus.

Meanwhile, ministers are yet to receive advice from the government’s science advisers on easing lockdown measures, No 10 said.

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