UK government’s coronavirus testing website closes applications on day it is launched

The UK government has set out ambitious plans for a system of “test, track and trace” as it tries to get a handle on the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

On Thursday Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced: “From today, employers of essential workers will be able to go on GOV.UK to get a test for any of their staff who need a test. And from tomorrow, any essential workers who need a test will be able to book an appointment on GOV.UK themselves directly.”

But the website to book a test directly has already closed applications, on the day it launched.

The government has been coming under significant pressure over its handling of the outbreak, with critics accusing it of being too slow to lockdown, too slow to secure personal protective equipment for health workers, and too slow to roll out wide-scale testing.

The rebuttal from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab - who is currently standing in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he recovers from COVID-19 - has been that it has “followed the science”.

The testing regime revealed by Hancock at the daily press conference was supposed to launch the next phase in the government’s response.

Here’s what you need to know...

What has been promised?

Alongside a target of carrying out 100,000 tests each day by the end of April, the government launched its strategy to immediately extend testing to all essential workers in England who have symptoms of coronavirus.

Essential workers include NHS and care staff, teachers, hospital cleaners, public servants, the emergency services, supermarket staff and delivery drivers.

Supposedly essential workers should be able to enter their details on the newly launched government website, and receive a text or email on the same day inviting them to book an appointment at one of the 30 drive-through sites currently open across the country, or receive a home testing kit.

The government claims test results from drive-throughs will be sent out within 48 hours, and within 72 hours of collection of the home delivery tests.