All Covid testing sites in England will shut at 6pm from today


NHS-run Covid testing sites are to close from 6pm as of today after officials claimed not enough people were coming forward for swabs in the evening.

The £37billion Test and Trace scheme has instructed all local and regional facilities in England to scale back their opening hours and shut early.  

Bosses at the new health agency responsible for the programme claimed the decision was taken because ‘demand for tests reduces significantly’ at night. 

But MPs said working Britons found evening tests convenient, while a SAGE expert questioned the timing of the move, with cases high heading into winter. 

Most NHS walk-in and drive-through sites were open from 8am to 8pm every day, for people with symptoms or close contacts of a confirmed case. 

There are around 500 NHS testing sites across the whole of the UK. 

The scale-down comes after a Commons inquiry found Test and Trace had been an ‘eyewatering’ waste of public cash that failed in all of its main objectives.  

NHS-run Covid testing sites are to close at 6pm from today after officials claimed not enough people were coming forward for swabs in the evening

NHS-run Covid testing sites are to close at 6pm from today after officials claimed not enough people were coming forward for swabs in the evening

The UK Health Security Agency, which is now responsible for the scheme, said in a statement: ‘All Service Management Providers have been informed of the decision to change future operating hours at Regional and Local test sites in England to 8am until 6pm from Nov 1 as demand for tests reduces significantly after this time.’ 

It added: ‘We have built flexibility and scale into our services so that we can adjust quickly to changing circumstances during the pandemic and we will continue to do this.’

Tory MP Greg Clark, chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said scaling back the extortionate programme was correct.

But he told The Telegraph: ‘If you’re going to have testing at all, surely it needs to be available when people want to be tested, including after they have finished work.’

Walk-in centres for booster jabs from today 

Covid booster jabs will be available at walk-in clinics from today in a push to speed up the sluggish rollout of top-up doses before the winter.

Eligible patients will now be able to turn up for their injection instead of having to book an appointment, NHS chiefs announced last night.

All over-50s can get a booster from six months after their second jab but they have previously had to wait for an invitation from their GP in order to arrange an appointment.

However, from today hundreds of walk-in sites across the country will offer boosters without the need to reserve a slot.

Individuals are advised to use the NHS online walk-in finder to check where their nearest centre is.

NHS England said almost everyone lives within ten miles of a fixed vaccination site.

Officials hope the move will drastically improve the slow take-up of the booster jabs to prevent the need for further lockdown restrictions.

Latest data shows that nearly six million eligible adults in England are yet to have their third dose.

This weekend Boris Johnson warned that those who have been double-jabbed should not be ‘over-confident about their level of immunity’.

The Prime Minister warned they risk becoming ‘seriously ill’ if they do not get their booster jab and that ‘people don’t quite realise the first two jabs start to wane’.

‘Tests need to be available when people need them, not for the convenience of the service offering them.’  

Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, also agreed that the ‘enormously expensive’ scheme should be scaled back.

He told the newspaper: ‘However, we currently have record high levels of prevalence, so now might not be the best time to start to limit the availability of tests.’

Across the UK, there are 40,000 new Covid infections every day — double the amount this time last year heading into winter. 

The move comes after the devastating public accounts committee report last week.

It said that the scheme had been a waste of money because it failed to break chains of Covid transmission, prevent lockdowns or enable people to return to a more normal way of life.

The programme, previously led by former TalkTalk boss Baroness Harding, also had ‘muddled’ objectives, the Public Accounts Committee said.

Its £37billion budget — equal to nearly a fifth of the entire health service’s budget — was used to hire more than 2,000 consultants on daily rates of £1,000 per day, on average.

The programme was championed by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson famously described it as ‘world-beating’. 

Meanwhile, Covid booster jabs will be available at walk-in clinics from today in a push to speed up the sluggish rollout of top-up doses before the winter.

Eligible patients will now be able to turn up for their injection instead of having to book an appointment, NHS chiefs announced last night.

All over-50s can get a booster from six months after their second jab but they have previously had to wait for an invitation from their GP in order to arrange an appointment.

However, from today hundreds of walk-in sites across the country will offer boosters without the need to reserve a slot.

Individuals are advised to use the NHS online walk-in finder to check where their nearest centre is.

NHS England said almost everyone lives within ten miles of a fixed vaccination site.

Officials hope the move will drastically improve the slow take-up of the booster jabs to prevent the need for further lockdown restrictions.

Latest data shows that nearly six million eligible adults in England are yet to have their third dose.

This weekend Boris Johnson warned that those who have been double-jabbed should not be ‘over-confident about their level of immunity’.

The Prime Minister warned they risk becoming ‘seriously ill’ if they do not get their booster jab and that ‘people don’t quite realise the first two jabs start to wane’.

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