Response to The Sunday Times revelations

Yesterday The Sunday Times detailed in a revealing article that the UK has accumulated a backlog of some 185,000 COVID-19 antigen tests and that the current testing system is so overstretched that many completed tests are being sent abroad to laboratories in Germany and Italy for processing – which has in turn presented difficulties in a number of instances as tests have been deemed invalid or compromised due to incorrect transportation conditions. 

Why does the UK appear to be in such a chaotic state in relation to testing? The answer lies clearly in its deep rooted supply chain inefficiency. Under its current manifestation the UK’s testing system relies on too narrow a base of testing suppliers – a number of whom do not have the required experience and expertise such as predicament demands. Under the current overly centralised model of testing, the UK only utilises a handful of private players – often failing to truly vet and integrate them in an efficient manner. Consequently, obtaining a test and receiving timely results is not always easy – many find themselves having to drive miles and miles to get tested and even then have to wait longer than 24hrs to get their results. 

However, the UK’s testing system and its potential is not beyond recovery. The government’s “Operation Moonshot” and desire to reach for the stars on testing is indeed commendable – and it is positive to be ambitious. However, if the government is ever going to fulfil its targets of testing 10 million people per day by early 2021 and make good its promise to the country, it needs to urgently review and reorganise its testing strategy. 

We at Testing For All firmly believe that the path out of this current chaos is to leverage an agile mindset and TFA’s experience of  partnering with resourceful, innovative test manufacturers to bring back testing to the UK, where plenty of initiatives exist and are waiting to get the attention they deserve. By bringing more testing suppliers – particularly smaller, highly specialised non-profits – into the fold, better, more cost effective tests will be serviceable. 

The decision to diversify and expand the testing providers with which the government works with cannot wait. It is a necessary step to take if the country is to avoid a winter of forced lockdowns – which in turn would only have a detrimental impact on the UK’s economy. Mass testing is the way forward and we at TFA want to do our part to ensure that the hopes of “Operation Moonshot” are able to materialise.