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Covid tests rationed with people on priority list getting first access

Suspected Covid-19 patients with acute medical needs and people in care homes will be prioritised under plans to ration coronavirus tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs.

NHS leaders have called for health workers and patients to be given priority amid signs the testing system is failing to meet demand.

The Health Secretary acknowledged that there were “operational challenges” in the testing system as he was summoned to answer an urgent question on the situation in the Commons.

Mr Hancock said an updated prioritisation list would be published setting out who will be at the front of the queue for tests.

“We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible,” Mr Hancock said.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have prioritised testing according to need. Over the summer, when demand was low, we were able to meet all requirements for testing, whether priorities or not.

“But as demand has risen, so we are having to prioritise once again and I do not shirk from decisions about prioritisation. They are not always comfortable, but they are important.”

Acute clinical care is the top priority, with social care next on the list and receiving more than 100,000 tests a day.

Mr Hancock said prioritisation was “a choice that we must make”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Mr Hancock was “losing control of this virus”.

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