Sage member hits back at Dido Harding over claims testing demand surge not predicted

A prominent member of Sage has hit back at claims by Baroness Harding that the NHS was not warned that it would need to scale up testing once schools reopened and people began returning to their workplaces.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the body had given “clear advice” that a fully functioning test, track and trace system should be in place.

Giving evidence to the science and technology select committee on Thursday, Baroness Harding, the head of the NHS Test and Trace programme, blamed Sage for not predicting the steep rise in test requests, telling MPs: “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we have seen over the course of the last few weeks.”

She said the current daily capacity of 240,000 had been put in place “based on Sage modelling for what we should be preparing for for the autumn”.

“In none of the modelling was that [the surge in demand] expected, and that is why I said I think we all have to think really hard about how we prioritise the use of these tests, that we are clear you should only get tested if you have the coronavirus symptoms,” she added (see the graphic below for details of how the UK’s testing system breaks down).

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