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The head of the NHS test and trace service has issued an apology to people searching for coronavirus tests in England who have either been unable to secure a test or have been told to go to drive-through centres hundreds of miles away.
Her apology comes amid growing reports of people with coronavirus symptoms facing increasing difficulties accessing local testing centres and delays in getting results.
As coronavirus cases rise and the weather turns autumnal, stressed and exasperated workers have described the anxiety of not being able to find out whether or not they or their loved ones have the virus.
“I was initially impressed with the system and how efficient it all was,” said Hollie Carter, a 29-year-old teacher in Gloucestershire, who was tested locally with her partner after they came down with a cough last Monday.
“Unfortunately, we never received the results. I called 119 [the coronavirus testing contact centre] several times to chase them, and was told if you haven’t received results from a drive-through test within 72 hours, then you should presume they’ve been lost.”
She said no other slots or tests were available and she was advised to contact her school to arrange a second test. “My school provided me with a kit on Thursday and I sent it off the same day, but five days later I still haven’t had the results,” she said. “Schools and other essential services won’t be able to cope if the situation does not improve.”
Carter is now self-isolating at home and a supply teacher is covering her classes. “The most frustrating thing is that I want to get back to work. I have no symptoms,” she said. “But equally, I want to make sure it’s safe for my colleagues and students.”
Nick Humphreys, 39, an architect in London, was told to get tested because he had an upset stomach, but when he attempted to book a slot, the government website said he should go to Inverness, 450 miles away.
The Guardian has been contacted by two other people in London who, along with Tory MP Caroline Nokes’ daughter, were offered tests in Inverness in the last 10 days. They said they were told by 119 call handlers that there had been a glitch in the system, but they could not be booked in to a closer testing site.
“I was incredulous. It’s just stupid – something is clearly going wrong. They probably just need more capacity,” said Humphreys, whose symptoms quickly cleared up. “If I had more serious symptoms, I’d have found it a lot more worrying.”
The glitch is believed to have been resolved, but people are still having difficulties accessing local test centres.
Also in London, university lecturer Kate Morris said she had been unable to get a test for her poorly son after attempting to book into a drive-through centre on multiple occasions.
“We have to get a test for our sick son ahead of a hospital scan this coming Monday, which we have been waiting for since March,” she said.
“I spent the whole day every half-hour on Tuesday vainly trying to book a test. This is extremely stressful. The hospital is not across the reality of how overloaded the system is, as yet, so the timing couldn’t be worse.
“They are assuming it will improve but we don’t think so. There is nothing. Not even 177 miles away.”
In Bristol, Caroline, 49, said she tried to get her 10-year-old son tested after he awoke with a high temperature, sore throat and stomach ache. Both she and her husband work in schools and her eldest son is severely asthmatic.
“I thought about the conversation playing out in other households and knew I’d want them to stay at home and get a test,” she said. “There’s a walk-in test centre within two miles of us, and also Bristol airport, but we were offered Cardiff airport – a round trip of 60 miles.
“I feel sad because it just adds to the general feeling of everything being in disarray. After all this bluster about ‘world-beating’, I wanted to see something that doesn’t add to people’s distress.”
Her family were awaiting the test results. “It’s nerve-racking,” she said. “The testing infrastructure has to be here by now. It is woeful.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: England’s Covid testing troubles: ‘Something is clearly going wrong’ | Society