Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020

UK government sending Brits on 150-mile round trips to take coronavirus tests

The UK government is sending Brits on 150-mile round trips to take coronavirus tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has admitted.

Mr Hancock said on Monday September 7 that he has brought in a new national cap of 75 miles each way for the tests after a backlog led to people being told to drive hundreds of miles for their test last week.

He said the Government is "increasing capacity", with most people now able to get a Covid-19 test at their local drive-in centre.

But the Health Secretary admitted people can still be asked to drive up to a new 75-mile limit, which "is still quite a hike".

Have you been told to drive over long distances for a coronavirus test? Let us know in the comments below

Home testing kits which get delivered to your door are also available, but some Covid-19 sufferers have reported struggling to get hold of them. Walk-in and satellite testing centres are also available.

Mr Hancock made the comment despite an earlier pledge saying people would not drive more than 45 minutes each way to get a test.

On April 23, the Department of Health said: "The aim is that most people should not have to drive for more than 45 minutes to get to a regional testing site."

But the new cap of 75 miles is far longer.

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It is the equivalent of driving from London to Portsmouth or from Durham to York – then back again.

Despite the discrepancy, a Whitehall official today insisted both pledges were still valid. "We are increasing resources in areas that need it most," the official added.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "What world do these Tories live in?

"What are people who can't afford a car supposed to do? Those who work shifts and have childcare and other caring responsibilities? We were promised "world-beating", Matt Hancock, not this shambles."

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Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth added: "Testing has become a fiasco – ill people struggle to access a test or told to travel miles and miles."

Mr Hancock said the new cap was brought in over the past few days after "problems" meant people were told to drive hundreds of miles.

The Health Secretary told LBC Radio: "We’ve changed that now so that people get offered tests within 75 miles, which is still quite a hike if you need to.

"But the challenge is that we’ve got the biggest testing system per head of population of any major country in Europe.

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"Significantly bigger than France, Spain, even significantly bigger than Germany.

"But over the summer we’ve seen the demand for tests go up and so some people are, if your local centre is full, then people were asked to go quite a long way."

Mr Hancock spoke to an LBC caller, Nick from Nottingham, who was told to drive to a testing centre 350 miles away in Dundee.

Nick told the Health Secretary he was "not happy at all" after displaying Covid-19 symptoms 10 days ago.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day and new booking slots and home testing kits are being made available daily.

“There is a high demand for tests and to help stop the spread of the virus we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

“We have the capacity to test for coronavirus at an unprecedented scale. We are expanding capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October, increasing the number of testing sites and bringing in new technology to process results faster.”

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