Boris Johnson's government is blaming the public for its coronavirus test shortage

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British Culture Secretary Matt Hancock.

  • The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has blamed the public for delays to the government's mass coronavirus testing programme, saying many people seeking the tests were 'ineligible.'
  • Sarah Jane Marsh, who is responsible for the mass testing programme, on Tuesday apologised for the delays and said they were caused by issues with testing capacity in laboratories.
  • A councillor in Bolton, England, said the virus was now 'moving around uncontrolled' in their community, as extra measures were introduced in many parts of the UK.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday banned gatherings of more than 6 people from any household, which were previously limited to 30, as the infection rate rose quickly across the UK.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The UK government has suggested that the British public is to blame for a shortage in Covid-19 testing because he believes people without symptoms are seeking tests.

Demand for tests has risen in recent weeks as the number of coronavirus infections increased sharply. The NHS chief in charge of testing yesterday apologised for widespread reports this week of people with coronavirus symptoms being told there was not enough capacity for them to be tested, in some cases being pointed to test centres hundreds of kilometres away.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, director of the NHS Test & Trace programme, said that laboratories which process the test results were short of capacity and added that officials were doing "all we can to expand quickly".

But UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted the test and trace system was "excellent" and said the British public was instead responsible because people who were "ineligible" for tests were seeking them.

"The problem we've got is that in the last couple of weeks we've seen a sharp rise in the number of people applying for test, getting a test, who are not eligible," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What I'm telling you is the reason we have constraint at the moment is not because capacity has gone down, far from it, capacity has gone up. It is that we've suddenly seen this rise in demand of people who are not eligible."

Labour's Shadow Health Secretary John Ashworth criticised Hancock for attempting to shift the blame onto the public. 

"It beggars belief that after weeks of encouraging people to have a test if feeling unwell, ministers are seeking to blame people for simply doing what they were advised," he said in a statement.

"With children returning to school and thousands returning to the office it's obvious extra testing capacity would be needed. The fact ministers failed to plan is yet more staggering incompetence."

The UK recorded 2,420 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, which did not include figures from Northern Ireland, as the rate of weekly infections begins to increase significantly again.

Boris Johnson on Tuesday banned social gatherings of more than 6 people, and further measures to contain the virus are being introduced in many parts of the UK where the infection rates are highest.

One council leader in Bolton, England, where infection rates soared last week, warned that the virus was now "moving round uncontrolled" in the borough. Households have been banned from mixing in outdoor public settings there.

Boris Johnson is expected to hold a press conference this week urging young people — among whom most new infections are occuring — to observe social distancing measures more carefully.

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