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Coronavirus: West Berkshire Council leader says Test and Trace capacity is 'being stretched to the limit'

Response as people trying to book tests at Newbury Showground turned away

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Coronavirus West Berkshire: Test and Trace centre

THE number of coronavirus tests in West Berkshire have been reduced as “capacity is being stretched to the limit.”

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) also said that it could take up to three weeks to resolve and that there would be cases in schools. 

The council does not run the testing facility at the showground, but receives data in confidence.

It said it could not reveal what capacity the site has.  

Mrs Doherty told the Newbury Weekly News: “We have seen increased demand.

“I think it’s a combination of schools going back and people coming back from holiday and we get things like the common cold coming through.

“Capacity is being stretched to its limit.

“People are struggling, not so much to get the test, it’s the lab ability to get tests that are under strain.”

“We are at a point where demand is stretching capacity.

“It will take two to three weeks before that’s addressed. 

“Please only step forward if you have symptoms or if you have been told to do so and if you persevere you will get that test.” 

Mrs Doherty said that West Berkshire was not classed as a priority hotspot and Berkshire has lower case numbers than elsewhere in the country – with 97 per cent of tests last month coming back negative.

She said: “The showground might look quiet because the number of tests in West Berkshire are reduced because of the capacity of the laboratories.

“What they’re doing is releasing more capacity at areas of need.

“We have got the facility but it’s the capacity in labs to process those tests.”

Responding to a confirmed Covid-19 case at Kennet School last week, and the council revealing another case in a primary school, Mrs Doherty said: “People will get Covid and we will need to respond to that appropriately.

“We need to recognise that we will get cases within schools.

“It’s part and parcel of the guidance and control measures they have got in place to have bubbles and how to respond each time.

“With the case at Kennet things kicked in that needed to kick in.

“That shows we have a plan and we have to make sure that plan is robust.”

West Berkshire Liberal Democrats Parliamentary spokesman Lee Dillon said: “It’s just beyond the pale.

“We need the economy to be able to recover and we need people to move around as freely as possible.

“That means having a really robust track and test and trace system.

“They [the Government] have never hit their testing numbers by the targets they have set.

“It’s led to real concern for local residents.

“I don’t know what I can say other than it’s not good enough and they need to put more resources into it.

“It’s quite clear that the system they have created is not fit for purpose, and the economy suffers overall and so will people’s health and wellbeing.”

Speaking on behalf of the Berkshire West Health Protection Board, deputy director Public Health Berkshire West Meradin Peachey said: “Across the country we are seeing a high demand for Covid-19 testing.

“Some of these will be people seeking tests as a precautionary measure or to reassure themselves that they don’t have Covid-19.

“We’re asking residents only to book a test if they have been asked to do, or they are displaying symptoms of Covid-19.”

People displaying symptoms of Covid-19 – a fever, a continuous cough and loss of taste or smell – should isolate and seek a test by phoning 119 or booking online. 

Advice is that if you do not have these symptoms you do not need a test unless you are part of a group of health and care workers who receive regular testing.

Those identified as a contact of a case should isolate for 14 days. 

A test is not needed unless symptoms are displayed but if a test comes back negative, you will need to isolate for the whole period.

The same applies if you are isolating having returned from overseas. 

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