Photos show how empty Postwick’s coronavirus testing site really is
- Credit: Mike Page
These photos show how the coronavirus testing site at Postwick was almost completely empty on Wednesday as people still struggle to book tests.
Only three cars can be seen near the testing tents at the drive-through centre, in these pictures taken around midday by pilot Mike Page.
Several people also reported being turned away from the drive-through site on Wednesday, despite it being empty, as the number of booking slots are severely limited.
A lack of capacity in labs where the tests are processed means appointments are being restricted across the country.
But that has led to anger and desperation from people trying to book a test.
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One man, who works in a factory making hand sanitiser bottles, said he showed up at Postwick twice on Wednesday trying to get a test, but was turned away both times, even though he had booked a slot.
The engineer, from Halesworth, is now off work with a cough and sore throat while he keeps trying to get a test.
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His wife said: “It is scandalous. The first time he had a confirmed appointment but was not sent a confirmation QR code so couldn’t get tested.”
The second time she managed to get a code by putting in a Scottish postcode.
But when her husband arrived back at the test centre with the code he was refused entry as the address on the QR code was for a testing centre in Scotland and not Postwick.
Problems with QR codes have lasted for a week. Last Thursday, people were turned away from a mobile testing unit at Carrow Road, despite having a confirmed appointment, because they had not been sent a QR code.See also: Parents and schools badly let down by testing, says headteacher•What happened to UK’s ‘world-beating’ testing system?
It is almost four months since Boris Johnson told MPs the Government’s test, track and trace operation would be “world-beating”.
But facing the Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, the Prime Minister was forced to acknowledge the situation was not “ideal” as demand was vastly outstripping capacity.
He was left with little choice. Across the country, people have described being told to travel hundreds of miles to get their children tested.
There are reports that laboratories have been overwhelmed by a surge in swabs.
Far from being the envy of the world, Labour’s Wes Streeting told Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the Commons this week the system was “a bloody mess”.
•What is being done about it?
Mr Johnson said on Wednesday: “We don’t have enough testing capacity now because, in an ideal world, I would like to test absolutely everybody that wants a test immediately.”
So the Government is looking at other ways of trying to halt the spread of coronavirus.
It includes strict new measures in Covid-19 hotspots, such as parts of the north of England, while a short-term lockdown has already been announced for Rhondda Cynon Taf in south Wales.
Ministers are considering plans to limit social gatherings, including a possible 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants, on top of the “rule of six” restriction on get-togethers announced this week.
The need for action was outlined by Adam Kucharski, a scientist and government adviser, who warned the shortage of testing capacity is affecting the ability of authorities to track the spread of the disease, meaning more severe restrictions may have to be brought in.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think we are getting to the point where potentially we are losing our ability to accurately track the virus.
“That means that we could have a situation where it is getting into risk groups, we start to see more cases appear and we don’t have good warning of that.
“It also affects our ability to have more targeted, nuanced measures. If we lose the ability to track the virus it ends up that more blunt tools will be deployed. That is what we saw earlier in the year.”
•Who should be getting a test?
The Government says anyone with symptoms. The Health Secretary said this week that there are “operational challenges” with testing but the Government is “working hard” to fix them.
He also insisted the average distance travelled to a test site is now 5.8 miles, adding it is “inevitable” that demand rises when a “free service” is available.
The Government is drawing up plans to prioritise who should get a test, starting with people who have acute clinical need and those in social care settings.
Mr Hancock last week said there had been an increase in demand among people not eligible for tests in recent weeks, but there no data to support this.