Mum told to travel to Scotland for coronavirus test
- Credit: Archant
Problems getting coronavirus tests have delayed school starts for pupils as parents are told to travel hundreds of miles to get swabbed.
Norfolk was made an area of “enhanced support” by the government last week, meaning it gets better access to testing.
Mobile testing units have been set up, but Norwich Green Party leader, Sandra Bogelein, said several people had contacted her since the weekend with huge problems getting tests.
Ruth Makoff, 39, from Norwich, spent Tuesday morning trying to book a test after waking up with a temperature.
“We were given options in Telford and Lea Valley,” she said.
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She said by lunchtime they had found slots at Attleborough and Postwick but the site kept crashing when they tried to book a time.
The family then tried looking for walk-through testing centres but were directed to one more than 400 miles in St Andrews, Scotland.
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“I just couldn’t believe that their system would think that was an option,” she said.
Then by 6pm she got a slot at Fakenham for Wednesday morning.
“It is just crazy,” the mother said. “I thought, ‘how many people are going to give up because they didn’t have the time to go through this?’”
Helen Howes’ son Joe, from Catton, missed his first day back at school on Monday because of delays getting his test result.
He first developed a cough last Monday, but it took Mrs Howes, 45, until Friday to book a local test for the 14-year old, after initially being directed to a centre 200 miles away.
“When I tried to book online they said go to Blackburn and then the second day I looked it was Wales,” she said.
On Friday she got a slot at the Norman Centre on Bignold Road, Mile Cross.
“The centre was really well organised,” she said. “But we were not told how long it would take to get the results.”
With no results back by Sunday she called test and trace.
On Monday her son, who has complex needs, missed school and on Tuesday the results came back negative.
The latest testing statistics show it takes 22 hours on average for a result from a mobile testing unit, 76 hours from a testing centre and 86 hours for a home test.
Another mother, from Ketteringham, who did not wish to be named, said she has had to keep her children off school all week while she waits for test results.
She posted the swabs for her and her two daughters, aged 4 and 8, on Saturday after ordering a home test kit, but still has not had anything back.
“They have missed out on that vital transition after six months off and are missing yet more education,” she said.
She said she opted for a home test after being offered a drive-through test centre 70 miles away.
When Sandra Bogelein tried to book a test online on Saturday she received a message stating the service was “not available”.
“I then got another message saying there were no slots in your area in the next five days,” she said.
The Norwich city councillor finally managed to book a slot at the drive-through test centre at Postwick on Monday.
Camille Mack, 30, meanwhile, was told to get her 18-month-old daughter Marlowe tested 120 miles away in Leicester.
When they tried to book a home test instead, a message on the website said: “This service is currently very busy.”
Ms Mack, from Norwich, said: “She picks up things all the time, like any kid, but we don’t want to be self-isolating each time.”
Sarah-Jane Marsh, director of testing at NHS Test and Trace, apologised on Tuesday for delays.
“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point,” she said. “We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”
The health secretary Matt Hancock said it would take “a couple of weeks” to fix problems.
He also criticised people for booking “inappropriate” tests when they had no symptoms.
Norfolk’s Director of Public Health, Dr Louise Smith said: “Our enhanced support status means we have drawn on additional government support to obtain swifter testing.
“This means we are being given priority for any additional testing capacity including continued priority for mobile testing units (MTUs) as required. So, a number of additional MTUs have been brought into Norfolk.
“These units were stationed at Banham Poultry on key days, and over the past two weeks in Attleborough, Thetford and Great Yarmouth as well as Norwich.”
She added: “We do know that demand is currently high. The advice is that if you are unable to book a test online, you should try again later in the day as new test slots are being released all the time.
“We are confident that anyone who needs a test in Norfolk should be able to access one within a reasonable time.”