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COVID-19: Hours-long queues for boosters for second day running – with lateral flows still unavailable online

Huge numbers of people have spent hours queuing for their booster COVID vaccines for the second day running, while lateral flow tests continue to be unavailable online following new guidance to help stay protected from the Omicron variant.

There has been a spike in demand for boosters this week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set a target of offering third jabs to all adults by the end of the year.

Yesterday and today it’s prompted huge numbers of people to spend hours in queues at walk-in clinics, including in Ramsgate in Kent and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, to get their jabs.

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Also from today, guidance says double-jabbed people should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days if they come into contact with someone with COVID.

That’s coincided with lateral flow tests becoming unavailable for order through the government website due to “exceptionally high demand”, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Tests can still be picked up from pharmacies, and the prime minister’s spokesman has said the government is “working with a range of businesses including Amazon to increase distribution”.

There was also a brief period of panic regarding the availability of free PCR tests, which people should be able to order online if they think they have COVID.

For a time earlier on Tuesday, the website showed “none available” next to every English region, but this was later updated with supply apparently back in stock everywhere.

Ministers have addressed the issue with ordering lateral flow tests.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “The problem isn’t supply and volume, the problem is the allocation and distribution, or the delivery, of it.

“We know that in relation to the online system there were some challenges yesterday, and that’s partly because of the proportion they’ve got each day.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said limits on ordering tests were linked to delivery capacity, before adding that new arrangements have been reached with delivery companies such as Amazon.

Over-18s will be able to book their booster from tomorrow, online or by calling 119.

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