Families in self-isolation hit out at lack of coronavirus testing
PUBLISHED: 14:45 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:25 18 March 2020
Families living in self-isolation have called on authorities to ramp up coronavirus testing as they face two weeks alone in their homes.
The number of official cases in Norfolk and Suffolk was still in single figures on Tuesday morning, but only those ill in hospital are being tested.
The Government said on Monday the true number of those infected in the UK is between 35,000 and 50,000.
Dr Louise Smith, head of Public Health England in Norfolk, said they did not know what that number might be in Norfolk.
She said anyone with symptoms of a temperature, cough and headache should self-isolate.
In a survey, which ran on this newspaper’s website from Monday morning until Tuesday midday, just 2pc of people who had contacted the NHS with coronavirus symptoms said they had been offered a test.
Two thirds of the 180 respondents said they had asked for one but had been refused.
Marie Pearson-Youngs, 31, from Attleborough, is self-isolating with her husband Jack, daughter Zoe, 11, and son Jasper.
Jasper, 4, developed a cough and had a high temperature over the weekend.
“I’m almost hoping it is corona, so we won’t have just gone through this because my son is coughing,” she said.
“We would definitely like to see an increase in testing.”
An NHS nurse from Norwich, who wished to remain anonymous, said her family were currently self-isolating and she was concerned about the lack of testing.
“We have to pressurise the government to do more testing,” she said.
The World Health Organization’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned every case should be tested to “break the chains”.
“You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is,” he said.
But the UK is limiting its testing to save resources.
Stella Middleton, 53, from Bungay, is self-isolating with her 14-year-old grand-daughter.
It was her grand-daughter’s birthday over the weekend, and she was so ill she wouldn’t touch the cake, Mrs Middleton said.
“I’m frightened of it because of other health conditions I have,” she said.
“Our doctors at Bungay have been fantastic. I have a shelf full of books and decorating to do.
“We have to try and get on with what we can do, rather than worry about what we can’t.
“I would like to see testing happen because you could just have a nasty cough.
“If we have coronavirus then that needs to be added to the statistics, so we know what we are really fighting.”
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Lee Salt, 37, from Carlton Colville, who is also in isolation with his family, said: “If they were testing more people we would know and could carry on, especially with kids as they have so many illnesses it could be something else.”
He began self-isolating on Tuesday after his daughter Kaysher-Leigh got a high temperature and cough.
“It is a horrible feeling to be stuck in the house and my wife doesn’t know how to cope not going out,” he said.
Beverly Rushbrook, 39, from Bowthorpe, said a test would convince more people to self-isolate.
“I am currently experiencing flu-like symptoms and when calling 111, the information given was to self-isolate.
“However, as a mum of four children I can’t really self-isolate unnecessarily.
“There is no way of being tested, if you are not critically ill.”
Nicola Hall, 38, and Jade McConville, 33, from Lowestoft, both work at the Birds Eye factory.
They had symptoms on Saturday and called 111 the same day but were not offered testing.
Mrs Hall said: “The doctor called back and said we didn’t need testing and not to leave the house.
“They just said, ‘I hope you have plenty of DVDs and books’.
“It’s a bit boring, we’d rather be at work.”
Sarah Lee, 34, from Costessey, pulled her 12-year-old daughter Katie out of school after she had a fever and high temperature on Sunday.
She subsequently decided to keep her other three children, aged 11, nine and seven, home from school as well due to worries about spreading Covid-19.
“I said to the head teacher that if it is coronavirus, I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s death potentially.”
•Why are more people not being tested?
The simple answer is the NHS does not have the capacity to test everyone with symptoms.
Around 5,000 people a day are currently being tested and the Government has said it wants to increase that to 10,000.
Dr Louise Smith, from Public Health England, said testing was focusing on those unwell in hospital rather than everyone with symptoms.
“If you are self-isolating with symptoms you do not need to report to NHS 111 unless your symptoms are getting worse,” she said.
“We are treating everyone in the community with flu like symptoms as if they did have Covid-19.
“Anyone who has symptoms – a new, persistent cough and/or a high temperature should stay at home whether or not a test has been taken.
“The new government advice published on Monday 16 March is very clear that if you have symptoms you should self-isolate for 7 days.
“If you live with other people in your house – everyone should self-isolate for 14 days.”