Still, defying the warnings of a key government adviser, Mr. Johnson set out his new target last week for a high-speed diagnostic program that by early 2021 could test 10 million Britons a day, or every person in the country once a week. Documents obtained by The BMJ, a medical journal, mentioned a price tag of 100 billion pounds, or $129 billion, and acknowledged that the technology to process so many tests so quickly does not exist.
The government adviser who warned against the plan, Sir John Bell, a professor at the University of Oxford, said in a radio interview that the problems with the government’s existing testing program were a result of underestimating demand once students returned to class this month.
“What has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive, but also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about,” he said. “So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.”
Beyond the uptick in demand, some officials have also suggested that shortages of staff and reagents, the chemical ingredients used in tests, may be contributing to the crisis.
The shortages have rippled through schools, where students returned to classes at the beginning of the month, highlighting the dangers of sending children back to classrooms without a strong testing program in place.
Teachers said that start-of-term headaches and sniffles began to spread almost immediately, but there was little way of knowing if they were a sign of something worse.
As Second Wave of Virus Builds, U.K. Enters New Testing Crisis – The New York Times