Soaring demand for coronavirus tests before Christmas has left Boots with no test appointments available before the holidays in six major cities across the UK.
There are no appointments available before December 25 in Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Leeds, Sheffield or Bristol, leaving customers disappointed they cannot be tested before the Christmas travel window opens.
Just one appointment for a private test at Boots is available in London between today and Christmas Day, while Liverpool’s branch has two.
A spokeswoman for the company said Boots would add more booking slots as it expanded its testing operation from an initial 45 stores “over the next few weeks”
The spokesman said the Boots’ private tests had been “incredibly popular” with customers.
Private Covid testing is designed for people who do not have symptoms but want to check they are not carrying the virus asymptomatically.
Some travel destinations require air passengers to certify they do not have the virus before flying.
Tests cost £120 and deliver the results within 48 hours.
In the last week, online searches for “private Covid test” have hit their highest level since mid-September, when there was another spike in demand.
A Boots spokeswoman said: “The Boots Instore COVID-19 Testing Service is incredibly popular, and as you can book your appointment up to four weeks ahead, slots around Christmas are filling up rapidly.
“The service is already available in 45 stores nationwide, with new stores being added every week – check boots.com for availability in your local area.”
During a debate on the latest tiered coronavirus measures on Tuesday, Boris Johnson was asked whether he would roll out mass testing for people without symptoms who want to travel to visit family during the Christmas relaxation on December 23-27.
Politicians raised concerns that people could spread the virus around the country during the Christmas break, especially to elderly relatives visiting their younger family members.
Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, asked Mr Johnson whether testing could be made available for free on the NHS.
Coronavirus tests are not currently available for free for people who do not have symptoms, apart from in Tier 3 areas with mass surveillance testing programmes.
“In general the testing system is available at the moment for people who have symptoms,” Mr Johnson said.
“But I would urge people who are worried that they may need to be in the company of those who are elderly or vulnerable to seek to get a rapid turnaround test.”