SOUTHEND-ON-SEA, England - Amid growing anger over a bottleneck in Britain's creaking coronavirus testing system, the government promised on Wednesday to do whatever it takes to boost laboratory capacity that has left people across the land with no way to get a COVID-19 test.
In an attempt to slow one of the highest coronavirus death tolls in the West, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in May to create a "world-beating" system to test and trace people exposed to the virus.
But repeated attempts by Reuters reporters to get COVID-19 tests failed while at a walk-in testing centre at Southend-on-Sea in eastern England hundreds of people were queuing to get a test - some from as early as 0500 GMT.
"Laboratory capacity has been an issue, we are working our way through that," Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News.
"We'll do whatever it takes to make sure we have that capacity," he told BBC TV. "We know where the pressure points are, we are piloting new walk-in test centres.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that fixing the system would take weeks. Buckland said health workers, care home workers and school children and their parents should get priority for tests.
(Reporting by Hannah McKay in Southen and Guy Faulconbridge in London; writing by Kate Holton, editing by Estelle Shirbon) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; 0044 207 542 8560; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))