Lateral flow test shortage hits two in five Britons

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
January 13, 2022, 4:25 PM UTC

One in ten say they have been unable to get any tests at all

Official NHS guidance states that people should take a lateral flow test before mixing with others, or visiting someone who is at high risk of getting seriously ill from the virus. Those who have been in contact with someone who has the virus also need to take tests daily.

However, in December a perfect storm of swelling COVID-19  cases and the busy festive social calendar led to a surge of demand, leaving a shortage of rapid test kits in its wake. The gov.uk portal for ordering the tests has regularly been out of stock, and many pharmacies have had to display notices that they had none to give out.

New YouGov data shows that only a third of Britons (35%) managed to access lateral flow tests since the start of December without issue. Another 35% say they struggled to get the tests they needed – including one in ten (10%) who were completely unable to do so – while a further 5% were discouraged from seeking out the tests because they expected they wouldn’t be able to get them.

Many workers, students, and children also need lateral flow tests to safely attend their workplace or school. Students and schoolchildren, in particular, are advised to do two tests a week.

Only 30% of Britons with children in their home say they have been able to get lateral flow tests easily since the start of December, with half (51%) having trouble doing so or being discouraged from looking by news of shortages.

Workers have had somewhat more luck, albeit not much, with 35% able to access tests without issue versus 42% who say they have struggled to do so or were put off.

Those looking for tests mostly tried to do so via the gov.uk portal (59%), while a further 45% tried local pharmacies and other community locations giving out tests. Another 17% tried to get tests from their workplace and 11% tuned to family and friends for spare tests. Only 8% said they tried to get test kits from designated COVID-19 test sites.

Those aged 55 and over were the most willing to hit the high street in search of tests, with 58% saying they tried to get them from local pharmacies and pubs, versus 30% of 25 to 34-year-olds. This age group was the most likely of all ages to have tried the gov.uk website (66%).

Only a quarter of workers (25%) who have tried to find tests say they have tried to get some from their workplace.

See full results here