Questions over number of wasted appointments in Norfolk amid coronavirus testing ‘meltdown’

Aerial view of Postwick testing centre. Picture: Mike Page

Aerial view of Postwick testing centre. Picture: Mike Page - Credit: Mike Page

The leader of Norfolk County Council has said that the national testing system for coronavirus needs to improve - but was not able to give an answer when pressed on how many wasted appointments there had been in the county.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

And, asked about whether he backed calls for Norfolk to be excluded a second lockdown, Andrew Proctor said the evidence needed to be listened to, but that “Norfolk is not an island”.

Families have reported being told to travel hundreds of miles when trying to book a coronavirus test on the government’s website, while the testing site at Postwick stands almost empty.

There were also problems with QR codes when people headed to tests, which was blamed on a technical glitch.

Delays getting home testing kits also meant that some children have missed school as they wait several days for results.

Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Labour county councillor Emma Corlett. Picture: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

At a meeting of Norfolk County Council today, Labour councillor Emma Corlett asked Mr Proctor how many wasted appointments there had been at Norfolk testing centres in the past four weeks during what she described as the testing system ‘meltdown’.

Mr Proctor replied that he did not have the figures for a testing system which is run nationally. He said: “The national testing system is the issue and there have been serious issues with it as admitted by Dido Harding and Matthew Hancock.

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“I don’t think there’s any question that it needs to improve, so when people who want tests, who have symptoms, can get tests quickly and get the results quickly.

“The figures you are asking for, I don’t have those particular figures to hand. We will have a look into them and see if we can find them, but the issue really is it does need to improve.”

Ms Corlett asked if Mr Proctor backed calls, as made by this newspaper, for Norfolk to be excluded if there is a second national lockdown.

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Mr Proctor said it was pretty obvious that restrictions in other parts of the country had had “limited success” so far.

He said: “People in Norfolk have generally been pretty good, to say the least. They have followed the guidelines and, apart from the Banham Poultry outbreak, there has been a low incidence of infection in Norfolk, so that’s a good thing for the county.

“But, let’s also be fair. Norfolk isn’t an island. We are part of the UK and where there’s a risk in the country, that risk needs to be mitigated.

“Norfolk’s economy is still in a fragile state and we need to do everything we can to support it, but it has been said that we are at a critical point in the pandemic and are heading in the wrong direction.

“We have to listen to the evidence as to what should happen to Norfolk and the whole of the UK to prevent the spread into our communities.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Dan Roper asked for explanations Mr Proctor had received over the problems with tests in the county and if he had been assured the situation would improve.

Mr Proctor said: “We are in a situation where we know what is happening and we have just to make sure the pressure is put on everyone to correct what’s happening and get it to a situation where, from a national point of view, and a local point of view as well, we can get the tests that we want.”

A question was asked by Labour councillor Julie Brociek-Coulton about the number of outbreaks in the county’s schools.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services said he did not have the figures, but they would be circulated after the meeting.

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