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Matt Hancock explained members of the public are not eligible for a COVID-19 test if they do not have symptoms. The Health Secretary has raged at people who have not been told to get tests as he pledged to reassure those with symptoms that they would be able to get to facilities. Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “The problem we’ve got is in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of people applying for a test, getting a test who are not eligible.
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“They don’t have symptoms and if you don’t have symptoms and you haven’t been told to get a test by a clinician or local authority then you are not eligible and you should not be coming forward.”
He continued: “If you have symptoms you should and you must come forward and get a test.”
Presenter Mishal Husain interjected: “It’s interesting because what you have said is different to what the director of testing at NHS Test and Trace said yesterday which is it’s laboratory processing that is the pinch point.
“That is where we do not seem to have the capacity.”
Mr Hancock added: “Of course that capacity is increasing and we want to increase it further.
“What I’m telling you the reason we have constraints at the moment is not because capacity has gone down, capacity has gone up.
“It’s that we’ve suddenly seen this rise in demand of people who are not eligible.
“I’ve read stories of whole schools being told to go and get a test and all the pupils; that is not what the testing is there for.”
Ms Hussain said: “People are abusing it then?”
“I want to reassure people who have symptoms – 90 percent of people get a test that is within 22 miles of them.
“The average distance anyone has to travel to get a test is under 10 miles.”
It comes as new rules banning social gatherings of more than six people are “absolutely vital to protect life”, the Health Secretary has said.
The change in the law in England will come into force on Monday as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000.
The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six.
It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.
It comes as Mr Hancock also said that the pause in a COVID-19 vaccine trial was “not necessarily a setback”.
The pause was a mandatory result after a participant in the UK trials unexpectedly fell ill.
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