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200916 | Frustration over 'farcical' and 'inadequate' COVID-19 testing in Cornwall

Frustration over 'farcical' and 'inadequate' COVID-19 testing in Cornwall

“We’ve heard cases of people being asked to travel miles out of Cornwall for a test, or having to wait more than a week for the results – neither of which is remotely acceptable"

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These are the most common symptoms of coronavirus


Angry Cornwall residents have branded the county’s COVID-19 testing system as “inadequate” and “a farce” after people were told to drive 112 miles for a test or left unable to get one at all.

Cornwall Live has been contacted by a number of people who either have COVID-19 symptoms or who have been advised to get tested but have struggled to book a test through the Government website.

One of those is Daniel Batson, 28, from Truro.

He said: “I came down with symptoms on Friday night and tried to get a test on Sunday.

“I logged on at 8am when the tests go live and was quickly told there were no test slots available anywhere.

“It also told me there were no test kits available. I tried again at 10 and it was the same story.

“I rang 119 and waited for an hour and a half to get told the person on the other end of the line was using the same website as me for information. It’s mindboggling.”



It wasn’t until later on Monday Daniel eventually managed to secure a test in Falmouth.

He added: “I don’t understand why it’s so complicated. Surely you put a test in the area and people drive up. The system is inadequate and a farce.

“Cornwall’s R-rate is already over one and if so many people are struggling to get tested then infections here must be through the roof.

“There’s been a real lack of clarity. I work for the NHS and am a key worker and even I struggled to get a test.”

Another left frustrated by the process is Laura Marney Gatehouse.

Laura has tried for four days to get a test, with the Government website telling her that there are no testing sites or kits available.

She said: “It makes me wonder what the real percentage is. One morning I was offered a test but it was a 112 mile round-trip in Exeter.

“No wonder Cornwall looks like the lowest hit because no one is getting tested.”

A message on the Government site advising a woman in Cornwall to drive to Exeter for a test
A message on the Government site advising a woman in Cornwall to drive to Exeter for a test

One mum from Cornwall tried to book a test for her son and claims she was even told by 119 operatives that tests are like gold dust.

She said: “I have been trying for over 12 hours to book a test for my son, to be told nothing was available online, no walk through, no drive through, not even postal tests.

“I called 119 who said the same thing, then I was told ‘just keep trying, tests are like gold dust’.

“How can this test and trace be so marvellous when you can’t even get a test? I put in loads of different postcodes and the closest test I got was Aberdeen, a long way from Cornwall.”

Meanwhile Cornwall Council is asking residents to tell them about their experiences of the COVID-19 testing system so the council can let the government know the issues and where improvements need to be made.

The council is keen to hear from anyone who has had difficulties with the booking system as well as how far people have had to travel for tests and how quickly they’ve received results.

The information will be used to make recommendations to government about urgent changes that need to be made to the programme, so it’s easier for anyone who needs one to access a test.

You can get in touch by direct message on the council's Facebook page at facebook.com/forCornwall or via email at phdesk@cornwall.gov.uk.

Cornwall Council portfolio holder for children, wellbeing and public health, Sally Hawken, said: “Quick and easily available testing is an absolutely vital weapon in our fight against COVID-19, but there have been some well-documented issues with the government’s testing programme and I’m deeply concerned that not everyone who needs a test can access one.

“We’ve heard cases of people being asked to travel miles out of Cornwall for a test, or having to wait more than a week for the results – neither of which is remotely acceptable.

“It’s clear to me that if we’re to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Cornwall, we need an efficient, easily accessible testing system. At the moment I’m not convinced we have that.

“That’s why we’d like to hear from anyone who has struggled with the testing system about their experiences. If we understand what the problems are here in Cornwall we can put the case to government that urgent changes need to be made.”

Rachel Wigglesworth, Cornwall Council’s director of public health, said: “If we’re to keep Covid cases low in Cornwall it’s important that we have an efficient and easily available testing programme in place for our residents to use if they need to.

“By understanding where the problems with the current system are, we can work together with our colleagues in the NHS and with government to make the changes that the current system needs in order to better serve our residents.”

The Department of Health and Social Care is in charge of the testing system across England and has told Cornwall Live that there are tests available in Cornwall despite so many people experiencing difficulties.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working, our capacity is the highest it has ever been and but we are seeing a significant demand for tests. New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for people with symptoms and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.

“Our laboratories are processing more than a million tests a week and we recently announced new facilities and technology to process results even faster. If you do not have symptoms and are not eligible to get a test you can continue to protect yourself if you wash your hands, wear a face covering and follow social distancing rules.”

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