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While Boris Johnson dismissed criticism of the government’s testing system as an attempt to denigrate those “trying to keep us safe” and urged the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, to be more supportive, many people with suspected coronavirus are unable to access testing.
There were fresh reports on Wednesday of people with Covid-19 symptoms being offered tests hundreds of miles away and teachers without symptoms being forced to spend days off school as they cannot easily get tests for their symptomatic children, after the head of the NHS test-and-trace service apologised and promised to swiftly expand laboratory capacity.
Derbyshire to Wallasey – 65 miles
In Derbyshire, Sue Drabble-Brown, 57 – who suspects she may have Covid-19 because she has a cough and a weak chest with poor breathing – was offered a test 65 miles away in Wallasey after her GP told her to get tested on Tuesday and would not dispense medication until she had done so.
“I could not get through to the helpline all day on Tuesday so rang 119 [the coronavirus testing contact centre helpline] at 8am on Wednesday morning and waited 50 minutes for my call to be answered,” the former NHS secretary of 18 years said.
“I cannot drive far because I feel so unwell. I have quite a bad cough. It’s crazy there are no home tests available at all. My daughter who lives with me also has symptoms.”
She added that she felt she was being treated poorly and that the state was not providing enough support.
Flintshire to Abderdeen – 367 miles
Mark, an industrial worker in Flintshire, north-east Wales, who said he has all the typical coronavirus symptoms aside from a loss of taste, feels similarly after allegedly being offered a test on Wednesday morning 367 miles away in Aberdeen.
“I tried to get a drive-through test on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and again on Wednesday from 5am and there was nothing apart from a few in Scotland,” he said, without wishing his surname be published.
“Unless I learn to fly, I’m not going to get there by 8.30am as offered. I’m supposed to be at work and won’t receive all my wages for being off as I await my home test delivery which I managed to get earlier. It’s financially going to kick me in the ass.”
He added: “All I can do now is sit tight, I’ve got my two-year-old daughter here so I’m trying to stay away from her and my partner downstairs, as I don’t want to risk passing it on.”
Lincolnshire to Aberdeen – 439 miles
The difficulty in booking testing slot in certain areas means that schoolteachers who do not have coronavirus symptoms are staying off work as a precaution.
“I have two teaching staff who need Covid-19 tests,” said a headteacher in Lincolnshire. “They were offered Aberdeen on Tuesday. That is 439 miles or an eight-hour drive away, with no home-testing kits available. This lack of testing could shut our schools. Not every family in our area has access to a car either.”
On Wednesday, the teachers, who are a couple and have a child with some coronavirus symptoms, managed to secure tests 25 miles away in Boston and are now waiting for the results.
“It does make you worry,” the headteacher, who has another teacher off with symptoms and is attempting to get tested, said. “You have conversations where people say they tried to get one but couldn’t and it fell by the wayside, that’s exactly what you don’t want to happen during a pandemic.”
Leicestershire to Inverness – 350 miles
In Leicestershire, Rosie Brennan said she was able to get one of her sons tested on Sunday but has since Monday been attempting to secure a test for herself and her eldest son they came down with cold-like symptoms. However, over the course of more than 48 hours, they have not been offered a spot anywhere less than 100 miles away.
“The helpline has been able to offer no assistance other than ‘Keep trying, it’s probably a problem with the software’,” she said. “I’ve ordered home-testing kits but they have not arrived. My children, who have mild cold-like symptoms can’t go back to school without a negative test result.
“The website is only offering spots in ridiculously far places such as Inverness, Fife, and the closest, which is Oldham. I just don’t think we should be travelling that far.”
She added: “I’m very sure we’ve all got a cold and not coronavirus but if my eldest was to test positive, he’s been exposed to his entire class and they’ve been in school all week since.
“We just need the system to work; I find it really worrying that I can’t even take him for a test.”
Gloucestershire to Telford – 90 miles
In Gloucestershire, Steve Hyneside, whose father died from coronavirus after probably contracting it in a care home, drove about 90 miles for more than two hours on Tuesday from Stroud with his two poorly children, aged one and three, to a test site in Telford but when he arrived he was told it was closed because they had run out of tests.
“We were told to simply turn around and go back home again,” he told Good Morning Britain, after his story went viral on social media.
“Both my two young children had coughs so I was trying to [follow] the government advice, they’d said if you have a new, continuous cough you should go for a test … The more that people struggle to go and get tests, the less that people will take advantage of it.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘We just need the system to work’: fresh reports of Covid test problems in England | Coronavirus outbreak