Thu, 10 Sept 2020
PEOPLE in West Berkshire have said they would have had to travel hundreds of miles to get a coronavirus test, as health officials have apologised for the Government’s Test and Trace system hitting a ‘critical pinch-point’.
People trying to book slots for the test and trace centre at Newbury Showground have said they have been offered tests at sites across the country.
Advice on testing has been issued in response to the capacity issue
One person told the Newbury Weekly News: “I started showing Covid symptoms on Monday and needed to get tested promptly as my son, who lives at home, is a secondary school teacher.
“I tried all day until midnight.
“Nothing was available – including home tests – until about 9pm when tests became available in Haywards Heath and, briefly, Newport, Isle of Wight – which was obviously ridiculous as I would have needed to get a ferry.
“I started trying again this morning.
“Home tests were briefly available then but I really wanted to be tested in person to reduce the turnaround time and get my son back to classroom teaching ASAP.
“I tried continually for three or four hours and was offered, at different times, Haywards Heath, Leicester, Harwich, Corby, Swindon (but the system wouldn’t issue an appointment for there), Chippenham, etc, and then, finally, Newbury.
“I’ve just had a very friendly and efficient test at a very quiet Newbury Showground.
“All utterly astonishing.”
Another said: “My son has what I’m hopeful is just a cold after returning to school for three days. He isn’t allowed in school and neither is his brother until he gets a negative result.
“I spent all day trying to get an appointment. Tried online multiple times throughout the day. Spent half an hour on the phone.
“Eventually got an appointment late Monday evening for 10.30 this morning [Tuesday] in the Lake District. It would have been a 558-mile round journey.
“Thankfully they allowed us into the Newbury testing centre and he’s now finally received a test.
“The people at the showground couldn’t have been anymore helpful and polite considering my son was so anxious and upset just at the thought of doing a test.”
Director of testing for the NHS Sarah-Jane Marsh apologised to people unable to get a Covid-19 test.
Ms Marsh wrote on Twitter: “Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present.
“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded; it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.
“We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”
On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged that people would have to travel no more than 75 miles for a test.
West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said that the showground centre was “operating at capacity” and “we were always going to see an increase in testing as children go back to school”.
Mrs Doherty said that residents needed to make sure that they had symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a a loss or change in sense of smell or taste – before booking a test and not just turning up or wanting to find out if they had the virus.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East) said: “Test and Trace is crucial to our recovery and the platform needs to be able to direct people to centres where they can actually get to rather than hundreds of miles away in some cases.
“If this is because of capacity issues then it is clear that more resources need to be deployed.
“The Government have failed on multiple attempts with test and trace.
“We cannot afford to go into winter ill prepared.”