The sole distributor of rapid lateral flow Covid tests to British pharmacies, Alliance Healthcare, went on a Christmas break just after it received 2.5 million tests.

A spokesperson for Alliance Healthcare UK confirmed to The Times on Monday that its offices remained closed between December 25 and 28, and that distribution of lateral flow tests (LFT) resumed on December 29 “when the majority of community pharmacies re-opened.” The company distributed more than two million LFTs on Christmas Eve, the spokesperson said.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents NHS pharmacy contractors, said in an update that Alliance Healthcare went on a Christmas break after receiving 2.5 million LFTs on Christmas Eve. “The public demand for test kits remains exceptionally high ahead of the New Year celebrations, with people wanting to use LFT tests to keep themselves and their loved ones safe,” Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC, said on Friday.

According to the UK media, many pharmacies quickly ran out of stock as the demand for tests increased due to the arrival of the Omicron variant of the virus and the change in health guidelines that allowed people to end isolation after testing negative. 

In a letter to MPs last week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted that the surge in infections and “unprecedented demand” for LFTs and PCR tests “placed strain on the system, despite the impressive scaling-up of supply, logistics and laboratory capacity.”

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