Monday, 28 Sep 2020

People 'being sent hundreds of miles' for coronavirus tests by booking website

Brits booking coronavirus tests through the Government’s website are being told their nearest available centres are hundreds of miles away.

Some people from Scotland say they’ve been sent across the Irish sea, south of the border into England or are shown a screen saying ‘There is a problem’.

One person with Covid-19 symptoms from Ilfracombe in Devon was directed 175 miles away in Swansea, meaning they would pass testing centres in Taunton, Bristol and Cardiff during their six-and-a-half hour round trip.

Locals from Felixstowe, Suffolk, have been directed to Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. The test booking website said it is just 13.8 miles away, but the journey is actually 40 miles by car.

Meanwhile a person in Gosport, near Portsmouth, was directed 67 miles away to the testing cite in Chessington World of Adventures, Greater London, despite the Portsmouth facility being just 11 miles away. Meanwhile people with a Southampton postcode are sent on four hour round trips to Swindon.

Historian and author Greg Jenner tweeted: ‘Might have Covid. Probably just a cold. Using the government website to get a test at my nearest centre. The website tells me my nearest test centre is Leicester. I live in Surrey.’

Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: ‘From the first days when testing centres were being rolled out, we have heard stories of people being sent unfeasibly long distances just to get a test, but for this to be still happening at this stage is hugely disappointing.

‘Quick and easy access to testing are cornerstones of an effective test and trace system but once again the Tories seem unable to get the basics right. They must solve these problems as a matter of urgency.’

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: ‘This is an extremely concerning development. We know how important it is to test quickly and contain the spread of this virus. 

‘People need to have trust in the system and be provided with accurate information about the nearest test centre. 

‘It would be disastrous if people displaying symptoms travel longer distances than they should.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told ‘NHS Test and Trace is working, it’s completely free and testing centres are open for people to book a test if they need one.

‘There has been high demand for appointments at some sites, but more will be available to book every day and home testing kits can still be ordered.’

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