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Thousands have been caught up in Covid-19 chaos while testing centres stand empty and ministers say one in four people who have booked slots turn out to be ineligible.
Parents in Bolton and Hull have complained of struggling to get tests for their children who have been sent home from school ‘with a runny nose’.
Meanwhile, others have reported driving for two hours from West Sussex only to be turned away without a test and even being told to make a 280-mile round trip from Durham to Edinburgh.
Despite the struggle to get an appointment, pictures show empty testing centres across the country at Heathrow airport, Leeds and Cambridge.
An empty coronavirus testing centre pictured in Leeds today. Covid tests will be rationed as the Government struggles to get to grips amid soaring demand across the country
A quiet coronavirus testing centre in Cambridge today, despite the need for extra testing and complaints from parents on the struggle to get a test for children sent home from school
Members of the public use a relatively quiet coronavirus test centre that has recently opened in Bolton this morning. Around 25 per cent of those booking a test do not meet requirements
The NHS testing centre at London’s Heathrow airport, pictured very quiet again. Meanwhile, others have reported driving for two hours from West Sussex only to be turned away
It comes as internal test and trace research by the Department for Health estimates that roughly 25 per cent of all those booking a test do not meet the requirements to do so.
Sammie Waudby, 32, from west Hull, said her 11-year-old son was sent home from school on Monday and has only just been able to get a test today after trying ‘every hour’, even during the night.
She told MailOnline: ‘I’m not very happy when it’s just a runny nose but he can’t go back to school until then and he’s already far behind.
‘He’s in year 7 so to me he should be there getting used to the school’s surroundings and new people. I’ve been trying since Monday morning, even every hour during the night.
‘The test is around 40 minutes away, it’s the other side of Hull to where we are, but I got offered Doncaster on Tuesday so this is not as bad.
‘I don’t drive so it’s a bit annoying.’
John Chivers, from Bath and North East Somerset, said he travelled 44 miles after getting a time slot for his daughter who was sent home from school on Monday.
He told MailOnline: ‘We were told we could take her to the local testing site, Paulton Rovers Football Club, less than a mile from school.
‘On arriving at the site we were told we had to apply online, but after trying we had no luck whatsoever.
‘All the other local sites – Bath, Warminster and Bristol – none were available. We managed to get a time slot at Newport South Wales, even though we are meant to self isolate.
‘To say we were not very happy would be a understatement. Thankfully my daughter got the all clear today.’
A specialist NHS nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, also expressed their frustration at the testing system.
The nurse told MailOnline: ‘I have Covid symptoms and have been trying all day to get a test, in vain. Thank goodness it’s me not my kids as I would be beyond wild.’
Hasina Miah, 33, has been trying to book tests for her eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son since Sunday so they can go back to school.
Hasina Miah (pictured), 33, from Bolton, who has been trying to book tests for her two children since Sunday, said: ‘I’ve been trying every 30 minutes. There is nothing available’
Dr Claire Sillitoe, above, had to cancel appointments with patients on Monday as she was unable to get a Covid test. The GP said she was ‘stuck in a really difficult position’
The self-employed mother from Bolton told Sky News: ‘I’ve been trying every 30 minutes. There is nothing available.
‘I have entered Bolton, Manchester, Wigan, Leigh, Bury and Chester postcodes but there are no tests available anywhere.’
Dr Claire Sillitoe, who lives in southwest London, was forced to cancel appointments with patients on Monday after her daughter fell ill and she was unable to get a test.
She said: ‘I wasn’t willing to put my patients at risk, so I was stuck in a really difficult position.’
WHO CAN GET A CORONAVIRUS TEST?
Anyone can get a coronavirus test, whatever their age, but the Government insists only those with symptoms should apply for them.
Symptoms include: a fever, a new continuous cough, or a loss of smell or taste.
Care home staff and residents should now be getting tests regularly, whether they show symptoms or not.
Some hospital staff get tested routinely, but this is not explicitly recommended by national guidelines.
If you don’t have symptoms,
The government says those without symptoms should not apply for a test – unless they live in an area under local lockdown.
Those prioritised for testing in England include all NHS social care staff, such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff, including community pharmacists and their staff, volunteers and unpaid carers.
Staff at essential public services staff, including those working for prisons, probation, courts, charities, and religious staff are also prioritised.
Those working in public safety and national security sectors, such as police and Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel are listed by the Government as priorities as well.
Employers can refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating because either they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms.
In England, all registered adult care homes can apply for coronavirus tests.
One father from Nottingham, Mahmoon Rasheed, had to book a test in Edinburgh, 279 miles away, after his daughter developed mild Covid-19 symptoms last week.
The 34-year-old told Nottinghamshire Live: ‘On Friday morning I decided if I got an appointment I would just accept it as it had been far too long and her school did not want to take children back without a test.’
People have also taken to social media to share their stories of struggling to get a coronavirus test.
One disgruntled Twitter user posted: ‘I have Covid symptoms, live in Co. Durham, Government website offered a free test in Scotland, would take nearly four and a half hours to drive there and back – for someone who is ill.
‘Didn’t book test – if I become more ill today, what happens if I am too ill to drive myself home?’
Another said: ‘Just phoned 119 after the doctor said I have symptoms of Covid and need a test before I start steroids and antibiotics.
‘119 said there are no tests anywhere for 3/4 days!! Brilliant’.
Craig Slattery wrote this morning: ‘There are currently no tests available in West Sussex, yesterday we drove two hours and were turned away without a test.
‘I’m pretty sure my son doesn’t have Covid but without a test he can’t go back to school. The system is on the verge of collapse.’
A fourth added: ‘My son lives in Durham and was refused a local Covid test.
‘He was told Edinburgh was his closest testing centre (280 mile round trip) and advised that where possible to cycle to his appointment!’
As of this morning, it was not possible to book a test in Preston, which has the third highest infection rate in the country, and Oldham, which has the fourth.
Tests were also not available on the Government website in Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Tameside, Warrington, Knowsley, Liverpool, Wirral, Bury and Salford.
In St Helens, a drive-through test was offered at Royal Blackburn Hospital, while a walk-through was offered at New Bury Community Centre car park in Farnworth, Bolton.
A drive-through test nearly 53 miles away at Uttoxeter Racecourse Stables car park was offered to those trying to book a test in Rochdale, as well as a walk-through at Railway Road car park in Darwen.
One woman who lives in Leicester, which recorded 306 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, one of the sharpest increases in any city in the UK, said she had been unable to book a test for her son.
Callan Glover said she had been seeking a test for six-year-old Arlo Schlupp, whose father is ex-Leicester City star Jeffrey Schlupp, and who had previously needed to shield for medical reasons, since Monday.
Callan Glover pictured with footballer Jeffrey Schlupp and their son Arlo Schlupp who, after being able to get a test on the government website, was tested privately for £125
The 30-year-old said the Government website was unable to provide her with a home test and offered her a test centre over 400 miles away in Aberdeen.
On Tuesday, she paid £125 for Arlo to be tested privately and he was seen within the hour, with results expected within 48 hours.
She said: ‘I felt I had no choice as I am concerned for his health.
‘He also has had five positive cases in his school over the last few days. I can only assume there are many more cases but we can’t test our children.
‘It’s made me very frustrated. We knew the kids were going back to school … we shouldn’t be paying privately.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged the public to not ‘game the system’ by changing their postcodes when requesting a test.
People have taken to social media, above, to share their stories of struggling to get a coronavirus test in West Sussex and Durham
But a glitch, revealed by staff, meant that entering a postcode 400 miles away would help Britons book a spot in Twickenham stadium – while those who entered their real addresses were told to travel to sites much farther away.
Mr Hancock earlier told the House of Commons there are ‘operational challenges’ with testing which the Government is ‘working hard’ to fix.
Patients who believe they have coronavirus symptoms can only get a Covid-19 test by requesting an appointment at a government testing centre.
Applicants must register their details, including their address, and are then supposed to be offered appointment times at testing centre nearby.
But, according to the government’s website, the service is currently ‘very busy’ and urges people to ‘try again in a few hours’ if they cannot book a test, or the location and times are not convenient.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘Testing capacity is the highest it has ever been, but we are seeing a significant demand for tests. It is vital that children and school staff only get a test if they develop coronavirus symptoms.
‘If a positive case is confirmed in a school, swift action is being taken to ask those who have been in close contact to self-isolate, and Public Health England’s local health protection teams continue to support and advise schools in this situation.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and but we are seeing a significant demand for tests.
‘New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.
‘Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster.’
Have you had problems getting a Covid test? Call 02036152973 or email [email protected]