Key workers told to travel hundreds of miles for coronavirus test

The drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley

The drive-through coronavirus testing facility at the Norwich Research Park. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Key workers needing coronavirus tests have been told to journey as far as Scotland and Cornwall to get swabbed.

Testing centres are open in Norfolk and Suffolk for essential workers, as well as people aged over 65, with coronavirus symptoms. Home testing kits are also being sent out.

But those trying to book appointments for tests on the Government’s website said they were told their nearest available centre was 300 miles away.

When they applied on the Government website, one Norfolk worker was told their closest drive-through centre was Perth, a seven-hour drive.

Another key worker in Suffolk said they were initially told on the website that they would have to go to either Cornwall or south London, despite a drive-through centre being open in Ipswich. After a few more attempts they did manage to book into Ipswich.

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A third worker said they had been offered a test in Plymouth, when they live in Norfolk.

NHS Norfolk and Waveney said the national booking system only showed available appointments on that day and people should try the following day or book locally instead.

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Separately from the national system, testing places have been set up at Centrum centre, near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn.

Local testing has been set up as an alternative to the national centres, whose nearest drive-throughs are Stansted and Ipswich.

Alex Stewart, from patient group Healthwatch Norfolk, said the county had the capacity for testing so nobody should have to travel a long distance.

Appointments for Norfolk testing centres have to be booked using a different system, a spokesman for NHS Norfolk and Waveney said.

Essential workers, including care home staff, must ask their employer to email with their name, job title and contact number.

NHS workers can get an appointment by emailing while NHS hospital staff can set up a test through their workplace.

The government hit its target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April, but the number has fallen since then.

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