NICOLA Sturgeon has confirmed ongoing concerns about Covid-19 testing capacity as Matt Hancock says the UK system faces an “enormous challenge”.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, said it would take “a matter of weeks” to solve the testing problem.

He said the “sharp rise” in people seeking a test is posing an “enormous challenge” to the system.

The comments came after reports emerged from around the UK of serious difficulty in booking a swab check, with Scots advised to travel to Northern Ireland in some cases and others from England told to go to Inverness.

Yesterday the First Minister says she hopes to see improvement within days.

That follows a “constructive” Monday night call with Hancock and Dido Harding, head of the UK testing system, in which Sturgeon sought “assurances that Scotland will continue to get fair access to the UK-wide laboratory capacity”.

The talks were scheduled over concerns that the processing backlog is making it hard to accurately report results in Scotland.

A total of 267 new positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

They represent 3.6% of newly tested individuals, up from 2.7% on Monday, but the First Minister said the testing backlog means the figures will likely include more results from over the past few days than normal.

Of the new cases, 101 are in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, 59 are in the Lanarkshire region, 53 in Lothian and 12 are in Ayrshire and Arran.

One new death has also been confirmed, bringing the total to 2500.

At the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Sturgeon said: “I have a concern about the capacity constraints right now with the UK-wide system and for Scotland in recent days.

“This has not been an issue of access to testing slots at regional testing centres or mobile testing units but instead it has been one of access to sufficient Lighthouse laboratory processing, and it is this that has led to a backlog in the system and longer turnaround times for tests than we we want to be the case.”

She added: “As this is a UK-wide system we are not able to resolve this on our own and the issues are impacted by demand elsewhere in the UK.

“I had a constructive conference call with Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, and Dido Harding, head of the UK testing system, to seek assurances that Scotland will continue to get fair access to the UK-wide laboratory capacity and discuss how we can resolve these issues.

“I hope to see improvement over the next few days but of course I will continue to provide updates.”

The First Minister said the way statistics are reported on people in hospital and intensive care with the virus is changing. She also issued a warning over scammers targeting people by pretending to work for the Test and Protect contact tracing service, calling them “truly and utterly despicable”.

Sturgeon said the Scottish Government has recently “become aware that some fake callers are pretending to work for Test and Protect and are trying to con people that payment is needed for a test”.

This, she said, shows a small number of people will use “any situation they can to exploit people”. She added: “Covid tests are free and will always be free to those who need them.”

Describing the working practices of genuine contact tracers, she went on: “The only thing Test and Protect staff will ask you about is where you have been and details of the people you have been in contact with.”

Asked about the outlook for Halloween next month, she said: “I wish I had a crystal ball sitting next to my magic wand and we would be in a different position.

“I don’t want to be the person standing here telling children they can’t go guising, but if it is necessary because of where we are then it’s better than allowing children to be at risk.”