UCL Institute of Health Informatics


Testing Capacity Shortfall

22 September 2020

Current national COVID-19 testing capacity won’t last 5 months due to demand for cough and fever alone this winter

COVID-19 Testing

Diagnostic testing forms a major part of the UK's response to the current COVID-19 pandemic with tests offered to people with a continuous cough, high temperature or loss of smell.  IHI researcher Dr Rob Aldridge along with colleagues from Lancaster University and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicines carried out a study to estimate the number of people with a cough or fever last winter in England and predicted the impact of those people requesting Covid-19 tests this winter.  In their paper published as a pre-print and reported in the BBC news, researchers predicted that coughs and fever would rise from approximately 155,000 cases a day in August to 250,700 in September and 445,000 in December.  The study predicted that if only 40% of people with cough and fever get tested, current testing capacity could cope with demand.  However if demand for testing rose and 60% of people underwent testing the system would exceed capacity in December and January, and if 80% of people with cough or fever requested a test, the study predicted daily demand for UK testing would exceed current capacity for five months straight, from October to February.  The authors recommend that current UK testing capacity should be "immediately scaled up to meet this high predicted demand".