United Kingdom

Londoner told to travel to Inverness for a coronavirus test

Some people were told to travel from the South East to Scotland (Picture: PA)

People have been told to take coronavirus tests hundreds of miles from where they live, forcing the government to bring in a new rule that nobody will be asked to travel over 75 miles.

The government website to order a test for Covid-19 has been hit with problems, with some unable to order a test at all as the website comes back with an error message.

Some living in the South East complained they had been told their nearest drive-in centre was in Scotland.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted today: ‘A constituent has just got in touch upset that the nearest drive-through COVID test a pupil in Tottenham has been offered is in Inverness.

‘The result is they are being kept home from school. This is bonkers. The government needs to quickly explain and fix its approach to testing.’

The government updated guidance today so that nobody would be asked to travel more than 75 miles – but this still means people potentially travelling the distance of London to Southampton, while feeling unwell.

The website was not working for everyone seeking a test today (Picture: gov.uk)

Some accessing the website this afternoon were given an error message and told to try again later.

In another case before the changes came in, a man from Ipswich was told to make a 700-mile round trip to Dundee.

David Atkinson, 45, told how he logged on to the Government booking website only to be told the nearest site for drive-through testing was 358 miles away.

He said: ‘I kept trying but the next nearest was Bradford.’

Another Suffolk family was told to make a 360-mile round trip to Wales.

James Robertson, who lives in Battisford with his wife and three-year-old son, applied for his family to get tested as he is a key worker.

He was shocked when he was told Ebbw Vale in South Wales, which is 180
miles away, was his closest testing centre.

He said: ‘We had all been feeling a bit ill so I thought as a key worker it was
better to be safe than sorry and that we should all get tested.

James Robertson was told to travel to South Wales (Picture: James Robertson)

‘I have been getting tested regularly and this issue has only begun recently.

‘It just seems crazy to me – in the end, my wife spent two days on the phone to the government before we managed to get tests booked in Sudbury.’

The government says the booking website is now prioritising high-risk areas, including those with local lockdowns, towns and cities with high infection rates and care homes.

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.’

Baroness Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace in England, blamed the problem on rising demand.

She told BBC Radio 4’s programme: ‘We’ve seen an increase in 63 per cent more people coming forward to be tested for the first time than June and in many ways that’s a good thing.

‘Now obviously I don’t want people to be being directed to go miles and miles for a test but the reason this is happening at the moment is because of a really significant increase in demand of a testing platform that, as I’ve said, is larger than any other in Europe.’

Have you struggled to get a coronavirus test? Email [email protected]

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