Covid-19 testing sites unstaffed while others in ‘absolute pandemonium’
Dozens of people who booked a coronavirus test in England were met with an unstaffed site on Thursday, while others faced long queues and were turned away as the system struggles to cope with soaring demand.
Around 50 cars were parked up at the Doxford Park testing site in Sunderland, just hours after it was announced the city would be subject to local Covid-19 restrictions in a bid tackle rising infection rates in parts of the North East.
But those hoping to be tested on Thursday afternoon were met with no tent or other infrastructure, no staff to swab them and no officials to explain what had happened.
HGV mechanic Brad Cockburn took the afternoon off work unpaid to make a 100-mile round trip from Bedale, North Yorkshire, to the site on the out-of-town business park.
The 28-year-old told the PA news agency: “There’s no organisation, it’s piss-poor performance as usual.”
Mr Cockburn’s employer booked him the test as he felt as if he had flu-like symptoms and he is now unable to return to work until he receives the all-clear.
“They’re supposed to put these things in place to get people working again,” he added.
“Now they’ve got all these people congregating here and nobody to test them.”
Cash and carry manager Rob Reid, from Sunderland, was among those to book a coronavirus test and travel to the site – only to find out there were no swabs available.
The 58-year-old said: “My concern is about my health and it comes across that the Government is not that concerned, when they are taking bookings on the NHS website and there’s nobody here to do it.”
When another driver was asked how he felt, he simply replied: “Stressed.”
Elsewhere, those trying to get a test in Lewisham, south London, were met with scenes of “absolute pandemonium” and “chaos”, according to one person who was turned away.
Henry Bull, 29, said he cycled around five miles from his home in Peckham to his nearest testing site in Lewisham after booking an appointment online because he had a cough.
“I biked down there for about 10, 15 minutes before my appointment time and there was just absolute pandemonium, chaos,” he told PA.
“The entire junction is gridlocked with cars queuing to get into it, loads of car drivers getting out and shouting at each other to move out of the way.
“Meanwhile, once you actually get to the site, nobody has received the QR code that you have to have to get tested.”
Mr Bull said there were “lots of very angry people” shouting at each other and the staff, while one woman who had been queuing for four hours burst into tears after being told she would not be seen.
“A pretty horrible, stressful situation all round to be honest, lots of very upset people, presumably several of whom have Covid as well so exposing a lot of us to infection,” he added.
Mr Bull said they were all asked to leave without getting tested, and he did not know how he would now be able to get a test.