UK government website closed down after 16,000 tests booked - minister

An illustration of the UK Government's website to book coronavirus disease (COVID-19) home test kits, in London, Britain, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Illustration

LONDON (Reuters) - A UK government website allowing essential workers to book coronavirus tests did not crash but all the available slots filled up very quickly, a minister said on Friday after the portal was closed down.

The government had announced on Thursday that any essential workers or members of their households who had symptoms would be eligible for tests and would be able to book them on the website, but on Friday morning it was shut down shortly after it opened.

Transport minister Grant Shapps, who was delivering Friday’s daily government briefing on the coronavirus crisis, said the website had closed down after slots ran out, but was now back up.

“I can tell you also that 16,000 of those (tests) were booked during the first period of that being online, and the site has actually been brought back up around now for more people to go and book tests, it will then close off again, more tests will become available tomorrow, and so on,” Shapps said.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by William James