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Government blames low Covid-19 testing on chemicals shortage

Chemical Industries Association say businesses are working to meet escalating demand

Attempts to scale up coronavirus testing have been hampered by the availability of chemical reagents, the UK government has claimed.

Addressing journalists at the government’s daily press briefing on coronavirus on 31 March, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that “while the rate of testing is increasing, we must go further faster”.

“A critical constraint on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents which are necessary in the testing,” he said.

“The prime minister and the health secretary are working with companies worldwide to ensure that we get the material we need to increase tests of all kinds.”

Responding to the comments, the Chemical Industries Association said: “While there is of course an escalating demand, there are reagents being manufactured and delivered to the NHS.

“Every business here in the UK and globally is looking at what they can do to help meet the demand as a matter of urgency. To clarify the exact NHS need and meet it, all relevant UK industries are continuing to work closely with government.”

In a separate statement, Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the British In Vitro Diagnostic Association, said provision of the different tests for the virus was “challenging”.

She added that the association had been working to support the NHS to implement testing in the UK.

“This continues with manufacturers doing all they can to ensure continuous supply of the necessary reagents to enable antigen testing during this unprecedented crisis.”