Coronavirus: Test and Trace director apologises to ‘anyone who cannot get a test’

Authorities ‘doing all we can’ to expand the testing service, says NHS boss Sarah-Jane Marsh

Samuel Lovett
Tuesday 08 September 2020 10:49 BST
Europe can 'learn to live with' coronavirus says WHO director

The director of NHS Test and Trace has issued an apology amid continuing reports that people cannot get tested for Covid-19, or are being asked to drive hundreds of miles for a test.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, who also chairs the NHS England Maternity Transformation Programme, said authorities were “doing all we can” to expand the testing service.

The government's coronavirus test booking service has advised residents in London to travel to Wales and those in Cumbria to head to Scotland.

A Conservative MP in Hampshire, Caroline Nokes, revealed her daughter had been told to travel to Inverness – a distance of almost 600 miles.

The reports have sparked fresh criticism of the Test and Trace system, which has missed its target of reaching 80 per cent of close contacts for 10 weeks running now.

“Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present," Ms Marsh tweeted on Tuesday.

“All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, its our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”

A Department of Health and Social Care source previously told The Independent that a 75-mile one-way cap would be introduced, in an attempt to limit the distance people were required to travel.

Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock dismissed protests that people are being forced to drive hundreds of miles, insisting the “vast majority” get one easily.

“Of course, there are operational challenges in any system,” he said.

“If you have symptoms, you should go and get a test – and the vast majority of tests are available at the testing centre closest to you.”

The continued failings of the national testing system comes as a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned that latest increase in coronavirus cases is "very worrying".

"Generally, it is local outbreaks, but there is also very worrying increases in cases, particularly over the last few days," Professor Andrew Hayward told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.  

"That is what we are really keeping a close eye on - the extent to which it moves away from these local outbreaks to broader community transmission.  

"What we saw in the last few days from this surveillance data was this worrying increase in cases which, as we know from the first wave of the pandemic, can potentially get out of hand if we don't be very serious about the control measures."

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