A frustrated mother has spoken out after being told she has to drive 100 miles to get a coronavirus test for both herself and her young daughter.
Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, from west Berkshire, said she has been unable to send her nine-year-old daughter Matilda to school this week because she has symptoms of a cold and has been unable to get a test.
Having stayed at home last Thursday and Friday, Matilda was refused entry to the school on Monday until she received a test, as per the local council’s rules.
The school has said Matilda either needs to be tested or quarantined for 10 days.
Watch: Britons told to travel as far as 500 miles for COVID-19 tests as system struggles to cope
Having initially being unable to book a test, despite trying “almost constantly”, Bulbeck Reynolds told Yahoo News UK that she has finally been given a slot – at a testing centre in Cardiff, which is 100 miles from her home.
When asked about her daughter, she said: “She is perfectly fine. She was ready to go back to school yesterday. However I now have her schoolyard lurgy and have to drive a 200-mile round trip in peak hour traffic today.”
Bulbeck Reynolds said that both she and her daughter are to be tested, adding: “I will be drinking coffee and keeping the window down.
“It’s an entirely stupid scenario. My husband has to work so he can’t drive me.”
The 100-mile drive to Cardiff is above the maximum 75 miles health secretary Matt Hancock said people should be driving for a test.
Access to tests
The case comes as people across England have reported struggling to access coronavirus tests.
Dozens told the BBC that they were unable to book a swab test, while the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said testing capacity was being targeted at areas where coronavirus cases have risen.
However, residents in Bolton, where the infection rate is the highest in England, have complained of long delays in trying to book a test and in some cases being offered appointments in other areas of the UK.
Council chiefs have urged the government to treat “major flaws” with the online booking system for tests as “a matter of the utmost priority”.
Yahoo News UK has contacted the DHSC for a comment.
I am receiving numerous complaints from residents unable to book a test after displaying Covid symptoms. This is completely unacceptable and totally undermines track and trace so I have raised my concerns with Ministers to push for action to be taken as a matter of urgency.— Lindsay Hoyle (@LindsayHoyle_MP) September 15, 2020
Hancock admitted last week that there had been “challenges in access to tests” but insisted that “the vast majority of people get their tests rapidly and close to home”.
And on Tuesday, home secretary Priti Patel told BBC Breakfast it was “unacceptable” that some people were struggling to get tests, and “much more work needs to be undertaken with Public Health England”.
She said more testing slots and home testing kits were being made available and the “majority of tests” were available within a 10-mile radius.
‘Underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about’
But Professor Alan McNally, director of the institute of microbiology and infection at the University of Birmingham, who helped set up the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, told BBC Breakfast there were “clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about”, plus a surge in demand for tests.
“I think there is a surge in demand (and) I think our stated capacity is very different from actually how many tests can be run in a given day,” he said.
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“It’s very worrying that we seem to be in a situation before really we’ve come into autumn and winter where we’ve maxed out the number of tests we can do in the country, and that is very concerning.”
Meanwhile House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he would speak to ministers after being told by constituents that they were unable to get tests.
He tweeted: “I am receiving numerous complaints from residents unable to book a test after displaying COVID symptoms.
“This is completely unacceptable and totally undermines track and trace so I have raised my concerns with ministers to push for action to be taken as a matter of urgency.”
‘Not fit for purpose’
Bulbeck Reynolds’ experience is not unique with another parent revealing he has been trying for 48 hours to book a COVID test after his young son started showing symptoms on Sunday.
Samuel Austin, from Faversham, Kent, told the PA news agency: “Everything we submit we get ‘this service is very busy. Please try later’ or if we get through to finding a test site, we are told no site is available to see us.”
He described the testing process as “not fit for purpose”, adding: “Ultimately my disappointment is for my son and my wife… I feel powerless to help them and it shouldn’t be this way.”
The situation has meant Austin’s son cannot return to nursery and left his wife, a nurse at a local hospice, unable to work.
“As this hospice isn’t NHS she is not allowed to use the frontline channels for receiving a test,” he added.
“Even though she has worked throughout the lockdown, covering extra shifts where needed due to her hospice having the disease.”
Impact on NHS
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said the health service in England had been hit by staff being off work who were unable to get a test.
He said the health service “simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests, not being able to come into work” and patients unable to be tested.
“There is a significant impact and a growing impact on the NHS, and that is a problem,” he added. “Nobody knows how widespread this problem is, nobody knows how long it’s going to go on for, nobody knows, for example, given that there are scarcities of tests, about who’s going to be prioritised for those tests that are available.”
Hopson urged the government “to be honest and open” about what was going on, and said NHS staff and patients should be given priority for testing.
Last week Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes branded test and trace a “shambles” after saying her constituents were having difficulty accessing coronavirus tests.
Her comments came after she was tweeted by a Twitter user who said the government website was saying no home tests were available.
A DHSC last week told Yahoo News UK it had not run out of tests but that it could “pause the booking portal for short periods” during periods of high demand.