Thousands of Brits ‘are waiting on delayed coronavirus test results’

Huge queues build up outside Covid-19 test centres across Britain as Matt Hancock reveals up to 250,000 people are waiting on results and admits the fiasco will last for WEEKS

  • Mr Hancock was grilled in Parliament today over the ‘farce’ of a testing system now beset with problems
  • People report being directed to testing centres dozens or hundreds of miles away from their homes
  • Staff in hospitals, schools and care homes can’t get tested and are having to self-isolate at home as a result
  • Mr Hancock admitted there was a day’s backlog in the system and blamed lab capacity for the problem
  • A new Government-run ‘Lighthouse’ laboratory will open near Loughborough later this month
  • The Department of Health claims it can handle almost 250,000 tests per day but is struggling with 205,000 

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Massive queues built-up outside coronavirus testing centres in England today as the government’s shambolic swab system descended into further chaos and Matt Hancock was forced to admit the fiasco will last for several weeks.

Long lines were pictured at sites in Southend, Bury, Birmingham and Manchester as the Health Secretary faced a grilling in Parliament over the system which has left doctors, nurses, care home residents and teachers all unable to get checked for the life-threatening disease.

Outraged residents in some parts of the country have complained about being forced to drive hundreds of miles for Covid-19 testing. But frustrating images revealed some testing sites were deserted today, with workers left twiddling their thumbs and fighting their boredom on their phones.

The Health Secretary admitted up to 250,000 Britons are waiting for their Covid-19 test result because of a mammoth backlog in Government laboratories, which has meant tens of thousands of swabs are being held up in a process that is only supposed to take 24 hours.

In response to criticism from furious MPs today, he said there is a hold-up of ‘less than a day’s capacity’ caused by ‘operational challenges’ in laboratories. The Department of Health claims it can process 245,000 swab tests per day.

His system — which ministers promised would be ‘world-beating’ and is crucial to keeping the pandemic at bay by squashing local outbreaks before they spiral out of control — came under fire after an investigation revealed no swab tests were available for residents in England’s 10 hotspots yesterday afternoon.

Labour branded the service an ‘utter farce’ and ‘a fiasco’, with the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth revealing NHS patients are now having their operations cancelled because of the testing crisis. Swabs have even had to be flown to Germany and Italy for analysis because of the hold-up in Britain.

Furious MPs said their constituents have been directed to testing centres dozens or hundreds of miles away from their homes, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said the issue was ‘unacceptable’ and pressured Mr Hancock and his ministers to get a grip and take ‘urgent action’.

Mr Hancock said demand for tests was now so high that the Government was having to ‘prioritise’ tests – meaning ration how many can be given to the public – with hospital patients and care home residents at the top of the list. Care homes are using up around half of the daily capacity at present, some 100,000 tests per day.

In another humiliating blunder for the system, Mr Hancock acknowledged it will take ‘a matter of weeks’ to fix the testing system. He told MPs that the demand for tests is currently outstripping supply — but officials don’t reveal how many people attempt to book a swab each day.

In a desperate bid to boost testing capacity in the labs, the Government is now appealing to science students at universities to staff the centres where swabs must be run through machines to spot the coronavirus.

The backlog has reportedly been caused by staff finishing temporary contracts and surging demand as cases continue to increase across the UK – and one scientist claimed the Government’s claim of how many tests it can process may not actually be true. Whitehall sources say the actual cause of the crisis is a ‘secret’, while one leading scientist dismissed claims of a staffing shortage and said labs appear to have enough technicians.

Here’s how Britain’s testing fiasco is unfolding:

  • People in some of Britain’s worst-affected areas, including Bolton and Greater Manchester, say they are unable to get access to coronavirus tests when they need them. People are being offered test slots dozens of miles away from home;
  • Despite this, residents in Cambridge say their local testing site appears to be empty but they can’t get an appointment there. Officials are now redirecting tests to more badly-affected areas; 
  • Members of the public trying to book tests online have been met with a ‘service busy’ page, and those turning up at testing sites have been turned away by staff; 
  • Care home bosses say their staff and residents – who are allocated around half of the daily test capacity in the UK, some 100,000 tests per day – are still not able to get tested regularly as officials promised they could;
  • One care worker in Luton claimed that the testing has become ‘worse’ and that some results don’t even come back, while others take at least five days to come back;
  • Officials say the demand for tests is now so high that their laboratories cannot cope – claimed capacity for swab tests is around 250,000, with around 200,000 being carried out per day. It is not clear how many people are attempting to book tests each day;
  • Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, today branded the situation ‘unacceptable’ and called for action from the Government;
  • A headteacher warned schools are in for a ‘really bumpy ride’ if they can’t get their staff and pupils tested, and at least 30 have already had to send home entire year groups or classes over virus scares;
  • NHS doctors and nurses being forced to stay off work because they can’t get tests will hinder the health service’s attempt to return to full capacity after thousands of appointments and operations were cancelled. 
A huge queue of people is pictured outside a coronavirus testing centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 8am this morning. Many of the people reportedly turned up hoping they would be allowed in, but hadn't made appointments

A huge queue of people is pictured outside a coronavirus testing centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 8am this morning. Many of the people reportedly turned up hoping they would be allowed in, but hadn’t made appointments

Members of the public are pictured queuing at a test centre in Bury, Greater Manchester

Members of the public are pictured queuing at a test centre in Bury, Greater Manchester

A long queue outside a testing site in Gorton, Manchester

A long queue outside a testing site in Gorton, Manchester 

People queue up to be let in to a walk-through test centre in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. Birmingham and nearby Solihull are among the latest places to be put under local lockdown rules

People queue up to be let in to a walk-through test centre in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham. Birmingham and nearby Solihull are among the latest places to be put under local lockdown rules

A man is pictured being turned away from a coronavirus testing centre in Bolton today, which has the highest infection rate in the country

A man is pictured being turned away from a coronavirus testing centre in Bolton today, which has the highest infection rate in the country

Despite the increased demand of patients needing tests, two workers at a swabbing site in Cambridge were sat with nothing to do

Despite the increased demand of patients needing tests, two workers at a swabbing site in Cambridge were sat with nothing to do

ENTIRE FAMILY IN ISOLATION BECAUSE OF TESTING DELAY

The Jenkins family from Odiham, near Basingstoke, spent over 36 hours trying to get a Covid test after their teenage daughter came down with a cough and lost her sense of taste

The Jenkins family from Odiham, near Basingstoke, spent over 36 hours trying to get a Covid test after their teenage daughter came down with a cough and lost her sense of taste

The Jenkins family from Odiham, near Basingstoke, spent over 36 hours trying to get a Covid test after their teenage daughter came down with a cough and lost her sense of taste.

Nathanael, 18, one of three children living at home with his parents, said: ‘We were shocked at the uselessness of the government’s test booking system.

‘My sister, who is 15, had only been back at school for a week but there are 2,000 children there now and by Friday she had a cough which turned into a temperature over the weekend. She started trying to book a test on Sunday and tried numerous times without any luck.

‘On Monday, we all took turns and tried all morning and every hour from midday – more than 40 attempts in total. We even tried putting in different postcodes but it made no difference. Either the page would not load or it would take you back to the page you’d already been on.

‘It has meant that all of us have had to stay at home. My Mum has cancelled engagements, I’ve been unable to go to work in a supermarket stockroom and both my sisters have been missing more school.

‘I thought being a key worker I could get a test through my employer but they told me that the government website was all there was.

‘Late this morning, we did manage it. It felt like pure luck and it was only a few miles away. We’re told the results could take up to 72 hours.’

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Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth accused Mr Hancock of ‘losing control of the virus’ and the Health Secretary was faced with the revelation of the Sunday Times that there was a backlog of 185,000 swab tests in the UK.

Mr Hancock said: ‘The backlog is actually falling and is less than one day’s test processing capacity.’

The Department of Health claims it can process 243,817 swab tests from the Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 programmes every day – these are diagnostic swab tests performed in hospitals and on members of the public.

The testing shortage has come days after Downing Street committed to ‘Operation Moonshot’, an ambitious plan to eventually carry out 10million tests a day to track the virus in real time.

Matt Hancock has repeatedly spoken of ‘ramping up’ testing capacity and boasted that Britain now does more swab tests than many of its neighbours. 

But the system seems to be cracking under the pressure of carrying out the approximately 200,000 swabs per day – before ‘Moonshot’ has even begun. 

People arriving for tests at a centre in Manchester today said they have struggled for days to get appointments, which are intended only for people who have symptoms themselves or have been officially referred by their boss. 

Businessman Mark Bowen, 43, said as he went to a test centre at the Etihad Stadium in the city: ‘Booked one days ago as a workmate had symptoms. But my wife tried to book one yesterday and she was offered a test in Belfast. 

‘She’s hardly going to nip on a plane or ferry to get a test.It’s a joke. The government needs to get a grip before we have a second wave.’ 

Mother-of-two Melissa Wood, 41, said: ‘It took me three days to get a test. ‘My partner thinks he’s got it so I thought I’d better get one. I think too many people are having a test when they don’t need one.’ 

One plumber, who had a test in Bolton, said: ‘I’ve tried to get a test for days. At first the only place they offered me was Doncaster which is miles away. But I managed to get one here. A lot of people have given up trying to get one in Bolton as they know everywhere booked up as we’re a hotspot. It’s a shambles.’ 

Key workers in London have said they were unable to get tests at a walk-in centre in East Ham, despite the belief their jobs would give them priority. 

Primary school counsellor Melanie Bailey revealed that she had been forced to stop work and keep her son off school after he developed coronavirus symptoms.

Ms Bailey, 49, from East Ham, told MailOnline: ‘My son Adam has covid symptoms and I just want to get a test so I know I need to do.

‘He’s had an upset stomach, aching limbs, a sore throat and he has started to develop a cough. I can’t go to work if he has Covid as I could take it into the school. Adam can’t go to school if he has Covid as he will infect others. But I can’t get a test to find out if he has it or not.’ 

Parents Steph Le Couteur and Ephraim Mwakandu told how they were offered a test for their two-year-old daughter Aurelia 175 miles away in Bolton, despite living around the corner from the East Ham walk-in test centre.

Steph, 33, told MailOnline: ‘Our daughter has a cough and they won’t accept her at nursery unless she has a test to prove she does not have Covid. We’ve been trying to get a test for days. I don’t know how many times I’ve been on the government website. We can’t work or visit friends and relatives until we are sure that Aurelia does not have the virus.’

Construction engineer Paul Campbell told how of his frustration at having to take time off work as he cannot get a test.

The 33-year-old from Romford, Essex, told MailOnline: ‘I’ve got a mild cough. It’s not terrible and I don’t feel too bad but I want to the right thing and not spread the disease. But I can’t get a test to find out if I have it or not.

‘I’ve tried to website so many times but I can’t get an appointment. I finally got through on the phone they said you can only book a test on the government website.

‘It’s completely wrong. There’s no-one at the testing centre. They’re not doing anything.’      

A woman is pictured taking a swab test for coronavirus at a centre in Bolton this morning. Other people in the town say they are struggling to get appointments for tests

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was grilled in the Commons today over the 'farce' descending on Covid-19 tests in the UK

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was grilled in the Commons today over the ‘farce’ descending on Covid-19 tests in the UK (Pictured left: A woman taking a DIY test at a centre in Bolton)

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Chorley, near virus-hit Bolton, said the current testing situation is 'unacceptable' and urged ministers to get a grip on it as soon as possible

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Chorley, near virus-hit Bolton, said the current testing situation is ‘unacceptable’ and urged ministers to get a grip on it as soon as possible

Boris Johnson talks during a Cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, alongside International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Boris Johnson talks during a Cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, alongside International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Health Secretary Matt Hancock

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO TESTING IN THE UK? 

What has gone wrong with coronavirus testing in the UK?

People across England are struggling to get access for swab tests which are used to confirm whether or not they have Covid-19. 

These should be available on the day at drive/walk-through centres or by mail order but many have reported being unable to get them, and instead being met by a ‘service busy’ message on the booking website.

This is even reportedly a problem in areas with local lockdowns, where testing is crucial and mobile test sites are set up to speed up the process.

Why are tests not available for everyone who wants them? 

The Government’s testing system is still not set up to cope with the surging demand now being placed on it. 

It was never advanced enough to offer everyone a test, which is why only people with symptoms are supposed to book the swabs.

Numbers of people catching the virus are rising across the country and the number of people wanting tests is increasing as a result.

Although the Department of Health claims it can process 243,817 swab tests per day, the system is stalling at a lower level – 205,659 were done on Thursday, September 10, the most recent data. 

Health officials have blamed laboratory capacity for the shortage, and the testing chief at NHS Test & Trace apologised for this last week.

Is a lack of staff in labs really to blame? 

One suggestion is that labs may not have enough technical staff able to operate the machines that process the swabs. 

More labs are being set up and more staff employed, but this could take weeks or months to translate to big gains in testing capacity.

One of the scientists who helped set up the system, however, has rejected this and said labs are operating normally and ‘there are problems elsewhere in the chain’.

The University of Birmingham’s Professor Alan McNally said on BBC Breakfast: ‘The labs are still fully staffed, they are still churning through huge amounts of samples per day – the same number as they were a couple of months ago – so there are problems elsewhere in the chain…

‘I think this is multi-factorial. I think you almost have a perfect storm of events that have come together to almost essentially crash the testing system.

‘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.’

What is the impact of growing pressure on test labs?

A large workload for testing labs around the UK means that people’s results are taking longer to process – many people have to wait more than the target 24 hours to find out their result.

This means that the government is throttling the number of tests that are sent out, to avoid completely overwhelming the system, so people in some areas are finding it difficult to access swabs. 

There are concerns that a system that is frustrating or slow to use will put people off and members of the public will stop bothering to use it. 

Should people still be ordering tests?

Yes, anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus (a cough, fever or lost sense of taste/smell) must order a test however they can. People who do not have symptoms, and have not been instructed by a medical professional to get tested, should not order a test.

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Today NHS Providers – an organisation which represents hospital staff – warns that the backlog is hitting the health service’s ability to get back to normal.

Chief executive Chris Hopson said: ‘It’s clear there are capacity problems with the testing regime.

‘Trust leaders from Bristol, Leeds and London have all raised concerns about the lack of testing availability, leading to greater levels of staff absence.

‘NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests.’ 

Nurses, doctors and other vital hospital staff are being told to take time off work and self-isolate because they might have coronavirus but can’t get tested.

This is wasting NHS staff time, experts say, at a time when it is crucial that hospitals don’t face any more problems.

There are already tens of thousands of patients who are overdue medical procedures and appointments that had to be postponed or cancelled because of the lockdown, and hospitals are scrambling to get through a massive backlog of patients before winter hits.

Chris Hopson added that the NHS ‘simply can’t spare members of staff waiting for tests, not being able to come into work’.

Sir John Bell, himself a medicine professor and qualified doctor, said the Government was not properly prepared for another surge in suspected cases and tests.

He said on BBC Radio 4 this morning: ‘A month ago they had spare capacity in testing – significant spare capacity – but I think what has been underestimated was the speed at which the second wave would arrive.

‘But also the pressure put on the system from children returning to school, and the testing demands associated with that, and people increasingly out and about.

‘So, I think they are definitely behind the curve in terms of getting the necessary tests for what we need today.’ 

A leading scientist who helped set up the lab testing system, however, has rejected claims that it is failing.

Professor Alan McNally, a geneticist at the University of Birmingham, told BBC Breakfast there were ‘clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about’.

He said: ‘The labs are still fully staffed, they are still churning through huge amounts of samples per day – the same number as they were a couple of months ago – so there are problems elsewhere in the chain…

‘I think this is multi-factorial. I think you almost have a perfect storm of events that have come together to almost essentially crash the testing system.

‘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.’           

The NHS is not the only place struggling to get enough tests – schools are also feeling the impact of delays in the nationwide system.

The new school year in England started just last week for most children but there are already reports of staff, pupils and even entire classes going into isolation after Covid scares.

One headteacher in Preston, Lancashire, said he has two staff and 10 children already stuck at home because of the virus. The staff, he said, struggled to get tested.

Jim Blakely, head at Garstang St Thomas’ School, told the Today programme: ‘At the moment I’ve got two members of staff not here.  

‘My Year 4 teacher was sent home last Wednesday due to Covid symptoms, a persistent cough, but there were no tests available on Wednesday.

‘So he kept trying to book during the day and in the evening, and there was some test available in some strange places, and these are the same places that parents in my school have been directed to like Aberdeen and Llandudno.

‘Not only are they miles away, but they are in Wales and Scotland. There is very little local testing.’

Mr Blakely’s account matches dozens of others which have seen people say the test booking system has tried to send them to centres tens or hundreds of miles from home.

He added: ‘This is going to be a really bumpy ride unless there is quick testing near schools. 

‘And I think that’s what we need really urgently, and a 24 hour turnaround on tests ideally, so families can get back to work and children can get back to school.’ 

Another man denied entry to the testing site in Bolton pleads his case with a member of staff

Another man denied entry to the testing site in Bolton pleads his case with a member of staff

More than 30 schools have told pupils to stay at home because of a confirmed Covid-19 case.

FAMILIES’ TORMENT AT INABILITY TO GET COVID-19 TESTS 

HOSPICE NURSE UNABLE TO WORK WHILE SON IS ILL 

A hospice nurse has been unable to return to work because she can’t get a test for her unwell son. 

Samuel Austin, from Faversham, Kent, said he has been trying for 48 hours to book a Covid test, after his young son started showing symptoms on Sunday.

The situation has meant Mr Austin’s son cannot return to nursery and left his wife, a nurse at a local hospice, unable to work.

His wife’s hospice is not part of the NHS so she does not receive priority testing. 

‘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,’ the 35-year-old project manager told the Press Association. 

‘Ultimately my disappointment is for my son and my wife. I feel powerless to help them and it shouldn’t be this way.’

COUPLE IN THEIR 80s SLEEPING IN SEPARATE ROOMS 

A man known only as Matthew said his 80-year-old mother in Leicestershire has been unable to book a test for more than 48 hours, despite showing two of the Government’s three key Covid-19 symptoms.

She is the primary caregiver for Matthew’s father, 86, who is partially blind.

Matthew said the couple have been sleeping in separate rooms and she has been administering her husband’s eye drops wearing a mask, in an effort to protect him from potential coronavirus.

‘I would have thought an 80-year-old woman with underlying health issues… should be made a priority,’ said Matthew, who lives 150miles away from his parents.

‘I even got close to clicking key worker on the online form for getting a test, because I thought, in a way, she’s a key worker for my dad.

‘And someone else said if she tells them she’s got chest pains they’re obliged to send an ambulance… but you know, she doesn’t want to tell lies.’ 

DAUGHTER CANNOT GO TO SCHOOL WITHOUT TEST 

Moz Bulbeck Reynolds, from West Berkshire, said she has been unable to send her nine-year-old daughter Matilda to school this week due to the testing issues.

Having stayed at home last Thursday and Friday with cold symptoms, Matilda was refused entry on Monday until she received a test, as per the local council’s rules.

However, Ms Bulbeck Reynolds said she could not book one despite trying ‘almost constantly’ since 9.30am on Monday through the Government’s website.

‘I feel sorry for my daughter, rejected at the school gate. It made me feel like a failure as a parent,’ she said. 

The school has said Matilda either needs to be tested or quarantined for 10 days.

Ms Bulbeck Reynolds has now been able to book a test for 5pm on Tuesday, but it is in Cardiff, more than 70 miles from her home.

COUPLE MAKE 102-MILE TRIP WITH BABY FOR A TEST 

A young couple with a baby have described how they made a 102-mile round-trip to get a coronavirus test.

Michelle Fryer and Bradley Richardson, both 25, travelled from Northwich, Cheshire, to Todmorden, West Yorkshire, with their daughter Rosie last Wednesday.

A testing centre has been set up in Chester city centre – just 18 miles from Northwich – but Michelle said she couldn’t book this online on the national portal.

The arduous journey, which took one hour and 18 minutes each way, came after a disastrous booking process which first tried to send them to Telford and then the website crashed. 

Michelle Fryer and Bradley Richardson travelled 51 miles from Cheshire to Yorkshire to get a coronavirus test last week

Michelle Fryer and Bradley Richardson travelled 51 miles from Cheshire to Yorkshire to get a coronavirus test last week

Ms Fryer said: ‘It was ridiculous. We are shocked as to why we had to travel so far and potentially spread the virus across the country if we do have it.

‘Luckily we didn’t need a rest break as we would have had to use the service station even though we are having to self isolate… It just doesn’t make sense.’

The couple believe they both just have colds but wanted to be certain because Bradley has asthma. They are still awaiting the results.  

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Seven have shut completely because of a positive coronavirus test, while 21 have sent at least one entire year group home. And The Daily Telegraph’s analysis of school closures revealed eight have sent a handful of pupils home because of a case.

Government guidelines say teachers must send home any children who have been in ‘close contact’ with an infected case.

Doctors, scientists and MPs have warned that the ‘farcical’ policy threatened to wreck the education for a generation of children who only returned to classrooms earlier this month after spending six months at home.

It also threatens to set back efforts to return millions of workers to offices and workplaces because they have to stay at home to look after their children.

The Mail on Sunday reported that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School, a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, were told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

Care home bosses have also criticised ministers for failing to deliver on their promise to prioritise testing in the vulnerable sector ahead of the winter, amid fears it could be ravaged by a second wave of Covid-19.

The Government had pledged that all care homes would get access to regular testing for staff and residents after the sector was caught off-guard and unprotected by the first wave in March, which has led to the deaths of at least 14,000 people.

But chiefs in the sector say deliveries have been slow and tests aren’t being processed quickly, adding that it would make sense for homes to have machines capable of processing tests on-site.

The chief executive of Care England, Martin Green, told The Times: ‘We were promised weekly testing for staff and 28-day testing for residents. That has not been delivered. There are delays in the couriers not coming to take swabs and problems with the labs getting the results back in time.

‘It seems that the government makes an announcement first and then scrabbles around to see how it makes it happen. The testing regime needs a thorough root and branch review.’ 

While one care home manager told ITV News today that the testing has become ‘worse’ over time. She said that some results are going missing, while others take at least five days to come back. 

Department of Health officials have already made a desperate appeal for staff to Britain’s biomedical sector, admitting it needs 400 technicians immediately to help fix the testing fiasco. 

The appeal, written by Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak — an expert in medicine at Glasgow University who was drafted in to help, revealed that bosses would hire ‘recent graduates’ with a biology degree to work in labs to analyse coronavirus test samples. 

But she also revealed that health chiefs would be open to hiring current students with ‘some previous lab experience’ to fill holes in rotas on a part-time basis, The Telegraph reports.  

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon piled pressure on the Government yesterday by claiming the backlog was also affecting Scottish patients.

Test results are processed in one of seven Lighthouse Labs across the country in areas including Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, Loughborough in Leicestershire, Cambridge and Glasgow.

Miss Sturgeon is concerned that the backlog in England is having a knock-on effect in the Glasgow lab, leading to delays in Scotland.

She said yesterday: ‘We’ve been raising these concerns with the UK Government.’

A senior Government source last night dismissed her claims as ‘wrong’, adding: ‘It is disappointing the First Minister has decided to play politics with the pandemic.

‘We have been working with the Scottish government through the weekend to ensure they have the support on testing they need. The First Minister should get her own house in order before blaming others.’ 

Yesterday it was revealed that swabs are not available in Bolton, which is fighting the largest outbreak of the virus in the country with an infection rate of 122 cases for every 100,000 people.

The Government website where testing slots are booked also shows there are no tests available in Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester, according to LBC radio. 

When postcodes in each area are put into the testing system it allegedly comes up with the message: ‘This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later.’

The leader of the council in Bolton, which has Britain’s highest infection rate, said there were ‘major flaws’ with the online booking system and that it was out of the council’s control because the Government runs it. He said the issue was ‘unacceptable’. 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, MP for nearby Chorley and the Speaker of the House of Commons, today slammed the situation on Twitter and said he had urged the Government to take action.

Sir Lindsay said: ‘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.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was ‘wrong to say’ that there were no tests available after she was quizzed about the long delays in trying to book a test in Bolton where the infection rate is the highest in England.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, she said: ‘Tests are available, you’ve heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen the teams that have been working on this.

Coronavirus tests are currently unavailable in the ten centres of the UK's coronavirus outbreak, reports LBC. Pictured above is a testing centre in Bolton, northern England

Coronavirus tests are currently unavailable in the ten centres of the UK’s coronavirus outbreak, reports LBC. Pictured above is a testing centre in Bolton, northern England

Those trying to get tests in the ten UK hotspots are being greeted with this message

Those trying to get tests in the ten UK hotspots are being greeted with this message

‘Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.

MORE THAN 30 SCHOOLS HAVE SENT PUPILS HOME IN VIRUS SCARES 

More than 30 schools have told pupils to stay at home because of a confirmed Covid-19 case, it was revealed today.

Seven have shut completely because of a positive coronavirus test, while 21 have sent at least one entire year group home. And The Daily Telegraph’s analysis of school closures revealed eight have sent a handful of pupils home because of a case.

Government guidelines say teachers must send home any children who have been in ‘close contact’ with an infected case.

Doctors, scientists and MPs have warned that the ‘farcical’ policy threatened to wreck the education for a generation of children who only returned to classrooms earlier this month after spending six months at home.

It also threatens to set back efforts to return millions of workers to offices and workplaces because they have to stay at home to look after their children.

The Mail on Sunday reported that all Year 7 and Year 10 pupils at £20,000-a-year North London Collegiate School, a top independent day school for girls aged 4-18, were told to isolate for two weeks after just two pupils fell ill last week.

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‘I think it is wrong to say tests are not available, new book-in slots are being made available every single day, mobile testing units are being made available.

‘And on top of that home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas.’

But the Home Secretary added: ‘Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas.

‘As a Government we work with Public Health England to surge where there is demand in local hotspot areas and we continue to do that.’

On access to testing, she said the majority of tests are available within a 10-mile radius.

‘It seems to me there’ll be extreme cases where people can’t get to test locations within that radius but that doesn’t mean that Public Health England are not working night and day to boost capacity,’ she added. 

Head teachers have also warned schools will also be hit by staff being unable to get tested quickly.

One primary head in Southampton told The Guardian how three self-isolating staff were unable to get swabs, adding: ‘We will grind to a halt if the availability of tests does not improve rapidly.’

Another primary school head in Sussex said test shortages will ‘derail the reopening’ and ensure instability for both staff and pupils.

Labour MP Stella Creasy yesterday described the situation as an ‘absolute farce’. 

She told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: ‘I’ve had lots of parents get in touch with me this morning because they’ve got children with symptoms that are listed… who need to get a test who cannot book one online, who’ve been trying all over the weekend to book one.

‘Our walk-in centre which is on their doorstep yesterday started turning people away if they didn’t have an appointment, which would make sense if it was busy but I’ve been down there myself and there’s nothing happening there.

‘They don’t know how many tests they need to do, they don’t know how many scientists they need and they don’t know what the demand is.’

Priti Patel denied that tests were unavailable in the country's worst-hit areas.

Oxford University's Sir John Bell, who has been advising ministers, believes the fiasco has been caused by a 'second wave' of Covid-19 had led to a surge in demand for tests

Priti Patel (left) denied that tests were unavailable in the country’s worst-hit areas. The Home Secretary told BBC Breakfast today that she has seen with her own eyes that swabs are available in towns hit by local lockdown rules. Oxford University’s Sir John Bell (right), who has been overseeing Number 10’s antibody test programme and advising ministers, believes the fiasco has been caused by a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 had led to a surge in demand for tests

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon piled pressure on the Government by claiming the backlog was also affecting Scottish patients

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon piled pressure on the Government by claiming the backlog was also affecting Scottish patients

PRITI PATEL DENIES THERE ARE A LACK OF TESTS IN BADLY-HIT AREAS

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was ‘wrong to say’ that there were no tests available after she was quizzed about the long delays in trying to book a test in Bolton where the infection rate is the highest in England.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: ‘Tests are available, you’ve heard me say, particularly in local lockdown areas, I’ve seen this myself, I’ve seen the teams that have been working on this.

‘Mobile testing is going in, capacity is going into local areas where lockdowns have been undertaken and are taking place.

‘I think it is wrong to say tests are not available, new book-in slots are being made available every single day, mobile testing units are being made available.

‘And on top of that home testing kits are being issued across the country but specifically in local lockdown areas.’

The Government is ‘surging capacity’ in local lockdown areas and tests are available within a 10-mile radius, she added.

Ms Patel said: ‘Clearly there is much more work that needs to be undertaken with Public Health England and the actual public health bodies in those particular local areas.

‘As a Government we work with Public Health England to surge where there is demand in local hotspot areas and we continue to do that.”

On access to testing, she said the majority of tests are available within a 10-mile radius.

‘It seems to me there’ll be extreme cases where people can’t get to test locations within that radius but that doesn’t mean that Public Health England are not working night and day to boost capacity,’ she added.

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Last week Boris Johnson said he wanted to carry out millions of tests a day as part of a highly ambitious strategy known as ‘Operation Moonshot’. 

But scientists warned that the plans were ‘fundamentally flawed’ and even dangerous as the tests can wrongly tell people they are either positive or negative.  

The testing chief of NHS Test & Trace last week issued a public apology on Twitter and said lab capacity was to blame for slow turnaround times and people being unable to order swabs.

It is not clear why labs are struggling to process the tests, which are the same as they have been throughout the pandemic. 

One Government source told The Times that Britain was in for a ‘rough few weeks’ until another lighthouse lab opens in Leicestershire.

Lord Bethell of Romford, the testing minister, blamed the return of children to school for putting ‘enormous pressure’ on testing centres because youngsters are often joined by their parents and other household members.

He told peers yesterday that Number 10 was ‘throwing everything we can’ at the system to make it work.

On September 10, 227,465 tests were processed while the Department of Health claimed it had the capacity to cope with 364,917 in a day.

Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, claimed it ‘beggars belief’ that ministers didn’t use the summer to ramp up testing capacity ahead of schools reopening. 

LBC’s Westminster correspondent Ben Kentish said that when they tried to get tests in any of the ten areas, they were not offered one.

‘The Government testing website simply says the service is very busy and people should come back in a few hours,’ he said. 

‘We tried to get a test in the top ten areas. In all ten they were unable to get any sort of tests in any of the ten areas.’

Coronavirus test appointments are uploaded on the Government’s testing portal throughout the day, meaning those looking to book a test are advised to check back regularly.

Once each test is booked the site shows there are none available in the area at present. 

All the ten areas that yesterday did not have tests available are listed by Public Health England as the areas of England with the biggest coronavirus outbreaks.

Their latest report placed Bolton at the top of the list, followed by Bradford with 72 cases per 100,000, Oldham with 66 cases per 100,000 and Salford with 62 cases per 100,000. 

Testing shortages came to the fore last week when people revealed they were either being sent dozens of miles away from home to get a test, while others were unable to get any at all.

Online booking systems were unable to process requests for tests meaning people who thought they might have the coronavirus had to go without.

In response the chief of testing at NHS Test & Trace, Sarah-Jane Marsh, issued a ‘heartfelt apology’ last week.

TESTING SITE SITS ‘EMPTY’ WHILE RESIDENTS CAN’T GET SWABS 

Residents in Cambridge have complained that their local coronavirus testing centre is not being used while people in the city cannot get tested.  

They say the centre at Milton Park & Ride  appears unused as Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner says he has received a ‘flood of complaints’ from residents who have been unable to get an appointment there.

He told ITV that some of his constituents are having to wait eight hours to get a test, while others have been ‘cut off on multiple occasions while waiting on the 119 phone line.’

On Twitter, Liz Cole wrote: ‘A friend told me has been refreshing the website for 13 hours trying to get a test appointment.’ 

Cambridge residents have complained that a testing site there is unused (Pictured: Staff do not have any visitors to work with) but local people can't get tested there

Cambridge residents have complained that a testing site there is unused (Pictured: Staff do not have any visitors to work with) but local people can’t get tested there

Sygma Security tweeted: ‘In the end my friend decided to drive to the Milton Road Park and Ride testing site in Cambridge, which was empty, and they turned her away because she didn’t have an appointment. Ludicrous.’ 

Dr Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said: ‘We know it may not always be as easy as the government would like it to be for people to access a test close to where they live.

‘If you are in that situation, don’t give up, please keep trying.’ 

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Ms Marsh said there was capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a ‘critical pinch-point’. She added that the system is doing ‘all it can to expand quickly’.

There have been reports of people being told there are no appointments available at test centres in England and that there are no home tests kits available to send out.

Ms Marsh wrote on Twitter: ‘Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present.

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

‘We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests. The testing team work on this 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We recognise the country is depending on us.’     

Embarrassingly, the problems come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week committed to his Operation Moonshot and to getting mass testing up and running in the UK by next year.

He said a pilot programme will be launched in Salford next month which will see audiences at both indoor and outdoor venues tested on the day to see if they are infectious. 

Those who test positive for coronavirus will be sent home while those who test negative will be allowed in. 

The PM said if the pilot is successful the measures could be rolled out nationwide and that he wanted everybody in the UK to eventually have access to daily coronavirus testing, with pregnancy-style checks providing results in as little as 15 minutes. 

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street coronavirus press conference that negative tests would effectively provide people with a ‘passport’ which would allow them a ‘freedom to mingle with everybody else who is similarly not infectious in a way that is currently impossible’.  

The Prime Minister said he hoped the mass testing approach will be ‘widespread by the spring’. 

Mr Johnson told a press conference last week that up until now testing has been used primarily to identify people who have the disease so they can be isolated from the rest of society. 

The PM said that will continue to be the priority with a goal of increasing testing capacity to 500,000 a day by the end of October. 

But he said that ‘in the near future we want to start using testing to identify people who are negative… so we can allow them to behave in a more normal way’.

He said new types of coronavirus tests which are ‘simple, quick and scalable will become available’ allowing for results in 90 or even 20 minutes and for tests to be administered in their millions everyday. 

Mr Johnson said: ‘That level of testing would allow people to lead more normal lives, without the need for social distancing.’

Ms Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a 'critical pinch-point'

Ms Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a ‘critical pinch-point’

Bolton has been placed under strengthened lockdown restrictions following a surge in cases, and last week became the first place in England to be forced to move pubs back to a takeaway only service.

NEARLY 500,000 PATIENTS HAVE BEEN WAITING AT LEAST SIX WEEKS FOR KEY TESTS

Nearly half a million patients have been waiting six weeks or more for key diagnostic tests to detect cancer, heart attacks and other serious conditions.

The figures have increased 12-fold in just a year as hospitals struggle with a post-Covid backlog.

Charities fear the long waits will have a devastating impact on NHS patients, particularly those who have cancer which may become untreatable.

Separate data shows that the number of patients having cancer treatment is down by a quarter on the same time last year. The total has fallen by 6,647 to 21,599.

Yesterday the Mail revealed that hospital admissions had plummeted across seven serious illnesses.

There is a growing backlog of patients who were unable to receive treatment at the height of the pandemic and who are now at risk of serious complications.

This number is continuing to rise because social distancing and infection control measures mean hospitals can deal with only a limited number of patients.

The latest NHS data shows that 489,647 patients had been waiting more than six weeks for one of 15 key diagnostic tests in July, the last month for which there are figures.

A shocking 291,982 of them had been waiting at least 13 weeks.

By comparison, in July 2019, just 40,099 had been waiting six weeks or more and 5,675 for at least 13 weeks.

Michelle Mitchell of Cancer Research UK said: ‘Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on cancer services and the lives of cancer patients. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure that cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment will not be even more impacted by any future waves of Covid-19.’

Alex Norris, a Labour health spokesman, said: ‘Patients waiting for these tests cannot afford for the Government to be as slow as they have been in other areas. Some of these tests will be used to diagnose cancer, and for those patients, we know that early diagnosis leads to better treatment and survival.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘Hospitals have been working round the clock throughout the pandemic so that patients can continue to receive vital tests and treatment while staying safe between March and July.’

The backlog is also affecting routine surgery such as hip and knee operations and NHS figures last week showed that 2.1million patients had been waiting at least 18 weeks.

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Other measures imposed include a limit on opening hours, with venues required to close from 10pm to 5am, and a law stating people cannot socialise outside of their household.

A further 96 cases of people with coronavirus were confirmed yesterday in Bolton, bringing its cumulative total to 3,239.

A spokesman for Bolton council said they are aware the Government is planning to open three new walk-in and drive-in test centres in their area so that more appointments will be available.

Leader of the council, David Greenhalgh, said today: ‘We completely understand how frustrating it is for people who are finding it difficult to book a test.

‘This is an unacceptable situation, and myself and senior officers have escalated the issue to the highest levels.

‘In our experience, there are major flaws with the online booking system, but this is a nationally run site, which is not locally run and is out of our control.

‘We, as a local authority have done everything asked of us. Our teams have been working hard to increase testing capacity in Bolton – two new test centres have opened in the borough and a third is due to open this week; and yet we know these two new sites are currently operating below capacity, and our own residents cannot access a local test.

‘This is unacceptable and it needs to get sorted and the issues resolved, and I urge Government to treat this as a matter of the utmost priority.

‘We would ask people to try booking an appointment in a few hours. Also, please only book a test if you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been asked to get tested.’

Matt Hancock last week accused people of trying to get a coronavirus test when they didn’t have symptoms of the virus, alleging they had seen a 25 per cent surge in demand for these cases.

Guidance makes clear the tests are only for those who have symptoms, or who have been asked to get a test by authorities.

Mr Hancock appealed for only those with symptoms to get a test, in response to a backlog caused by ‘lab issues’. 

Ms Sturgeon has accused the UK government of trying to limit the number of tests available in Scotland while speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing. 

‘We were concerned over the weekend that one of the ways the UK Government was trying to deal with the backlog was to restrict access to testing, and the Health Secretary managed to avoid that happening in Scotland,’ she said.

She also expressed ‘serious concern’ about the testing backlog and urged Mr Hancock to share the ‘full scale and nature of issues they are facing’ so her Government could help to try and fix the problem.  

She continued: ‘There was a proposal over the weekend that the available slots at mobile testing units and regional testing centres in Scotland would be reduced and the Health Secretary managed to avoid that happening so that we retained full capacity for Scotland.

‘We have no indication at the moment that there is any significant issue in Scotland with people accessing testing slots.

A sign in Bolton orders those suffering coronavirus symptoms to get a test, despite a lack of testing capacity

A sign in Bolton orders those suffering coronavirus symptoms to get a test, despite a lack of testing capacity

‘The issue that we do appear to be suffering some impacts from – and again it’s a UK-wide issue – is a backlog in tests being processed that is then leading to a longer turnaround time.’

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said she had ‘constructive conversations’ with Mr Hancock and her Welsh counterpart Vaughan Gething about the backlog, which she said was caused by rising demand and an ‘issue with the speed and capacity of processing the tests’. 

She added: ‘I was pleased that we managed not to have the restrictions on access to testing slots that were originally being proposed, but this is work that we need to continue because we need to try as best we can to work cooperatively and to resolve this situation.’

Is YOUR school affected by a coronavirus outbreak? The 300 schools in England and Wales forced to close or send pupils home after positive Covid tests 

Thousands of students are having their return to school curtailed because of coronavirus outbreaks in the classroom amid a fiasco over testing.

Headteachers have warned that schools — which were closed for months because of the pandemic — will ‘grind to a halt’ if teachers and pupils can’t get tested quickly to avoid whole-school closure.

At least 30 schools have closed completely already because of cases and one headteacher in Preston said this morning that he already has two staff self-isolating at home and struggling to get tested, along with 10 children. 

Another 300 in England and Wales have sent class groups home after receiving positive test results.

Pupils in Scotland had all returned by August 12, and they are also dealing with a number of outbreaks. And Northern Ireland schools were back in classrooms on August 31, despite a survey from NI’s largest teaching union saying a majority of staff ‘feel anxious and stressed’ about returning.

Jim Blakely, head at Garstang St Thomas’ School, told the Today programme: ‘At the moment I’ve got two members of staff not here.

‘My Year 4 teacher was sent home last Wednesday due to Covid symptoms, a persistent cough, but there were no tests available on Wednesday.

‘So he kept trying to book during the day and in the evening, and there was some test available in some strange places, and these are the same places that parents in my school have been directed to like Aberdeen and Llandudno.

‘Not only are they miles away, but they are in Wales and Scotland. There is very little local testing.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said disruption to pupils’ education could worsen in the months to come.

‘While only a small number of schools have had to close because of outbreaks, we are regularly hearing reports of groups of pupils and staff having to self-isolate in response to positive cases.

More than 330 schools in England and Wales have either shut completely or sent some class groups home after receiving positive test results. Pictured: Blackfordby St Margaret's CE Primary School, Derbyshire is closed

More than 330 schools in England and Wales have either shut completely or sent some class groups home after receiving positive test results. Pictured: Blackfordby St Margaret’s CE Primary School, Derbyshire is closed

‘The concern is that this disruption will worsen as winter approaches.’

He also warned that the work of schools and colleges in reopening to all students is being undermined by widespread problems in accessing Covid-19 tests.

‘Even when tests have taken place this was not the end of the problems. Some leaders reported that it was taking three days or more for test results to be returned, and when there were positive Covid cases, a number said they had experienced difficulty in getting through to local health protection teams for guidance and support,’ he said.

Downing Street has said that the vast majority – around 99 per cent – of schools have reopened as planned this month.  

‘There is a very small number of schools which have asked some or all of their pupils to remain at home,’ they said.

‘Children who are self-isolating continue to receive remote education from home.’

Here is a list of all schools in England and Wales known to have been affected by a positive coronavirus test:

Downing Street have said that the vast majority - around 99 per cent - of schools have reopened as planned this month. Pictured: St Mark's Primary School, Swanage, Dorset which also closed due to an outbreak

Downing Street have said that the vast majority – around 99 per cent – of schools have reopened as planned this month. Pictured: St Mark’s Primary School, Swanage, Dorset which also closed due to an outbreak

England

NORTH WEST

Accrington

Mount Carmel RC High School told every Year 7 pupil to remain at home after a pupil in the year group tested positive for Covid-19.

A pupil also caught the bug at Accrington Academy – students who were in ‘very close and prolonged proximity’ to the infected pupil were told they needed to quarantine for 14 days at home.

St Christopher’s CE High School confirmed on September 7 that two pupils had the disease, but said it would remain open.

A class at St Anne’s and St Joseph’s school were told to self-isolate for two weeks following a case.

It is not known if it is a pupil or member of staff that has been affeted.

Barnoldswick

Coates Lane Primary School confirmed a positive case Covid-19 – a number of individuals who may have been in close contact have been asked to isolate.

Blackburn

Two students and one teacher at Blackburn College tested positive for coronavirus. Students and staff who have been in direct contact with the teacher and two pupils are being asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

At Blackburn High School three year groups have been sent home due to a coronavirus case in each – year 10, year 9 and year 7.

Lammack Primary School contacted parents after positive cases of coronavirus were confirmed among pupils.

A class at the Blackburn school has been advised to take precautionary measures and self-isolate following instructions from Public Health England.

A year 9 pupil tested positive at Witton Park Academy and the whole year group were sent home.

The parents of Year 7 students at Pleckgate High School were contacted following a positive case in that year group.

160 pupils at Two Mile Hill Primary School in Bristol are at home self-isolating following an outbreak

160 pupils at Two Mile Hill Primary School in Bristol are at home self-isolating following an outbreak

Bolton

Three schools in Bolton have had outbreaks. They are:

  • St Bernard’s RC, Bolton – (Year 5 bubble)
  • Beaumont Primary, Bolton – (Reception)
  • Clarendon Primary, Bolton – (Year 6 bubble)

Burnley

A Year 7 at Unity College caught the bug on the first day back to school.

He had shown no symptoms but was immediately collected by his family and told to self-isolate.

All other 25 students in the Year 7 ‘bubble’ were sent home on Wednesday afternoon and will also self-isolate for 14 days.

Bury

Five schools in Bury have had coronavirus outbreaks. They are:

  • Heaton Park Primary School, Bury – (Class 2W and Year 3)
  • Lowercroft Primary School, Bury – (Year 6)
  • Prestolee Primary School, Radcliffe
  • St Bernadette’s RC Primary, Whitefield – (Nursery, Years 1, 2, 5 and 6)
  • St Gabriel’s RC High School, Bury – (Year 11)
Pictured: Royal Wootton Bassett Academy near Swindon, Wiltshire where 284 students are self isolating

Pictured: Royal Wootton Bassett Academy near Swindon, Wiltshire where 284 students are self isolating

Cheshire

‘Several’ cases of coronavirus were reported in unspecified Cheshire West schools this week, Cheshire West and Chester Council said.

All schools affected have successfully completed contact tracing, while all staff and pupils who have been in contact with those suffering symptoms have been advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

Carlisle

A pupil at Stanwix School tested positive for the bug, prompting some pupils there to self-isolate.

Leyland

An entire class of primary school pupils and their teacher was told to self-isolate after a pupil tested positive at Leyland Methodist Infant and Junior Schools.

Parents of Year 1 pupils have been asked to keep their children at home after the school was notified of a positive Covid-19 case.

Longridge

St Cecilia’s Roman Catholic High Schoo has asked 13 members of staff to self-isolate for 14 days after a teacher tested positive.

Years 7, 8 and 9 will not return to school until September 17 and have been told to access learning from home.

Manchester

Twelve schools in Manchester have had coronavirus outbreaks. They are:

  • Wilbraham Primary School, Fallowfield – (Year 3 and Year 4)
  • Park View Community School, Miles Platting
  • Manchester High School for Girls – (Year 5 Prep)
  • Newall Green Primary School, Wythenshawe – (One class in Year 1)
  • Old Hall Drive Academy, Gorton – (Year 6)
  • Old Moat Primary School, Withington – (Year 6)
  • St Aidan’s Catholic Primary, Northern Moor – (Year 2)
  • Chorlton High School South – (A Year 7 class)
  • Green End Primary School, Burnage – (One Reception class)
  • Oswald Road Primary School, Chorlton – (Year 3)
  • Manchester Communication Academy, Harpurhey – (One bubble from Year 11)
  • Inspire Academy, Ashton – (Year 1)

Merseyside

West Derby School was the first in the city to send children home after a confirmed case.

A total of 56 pupils and three staff members will now spend 14 days self isolating at home following the positive test.

Half of all pupils at Sudley Junior School were sent home after it recorded two positive coronavirus cases, with pupils in Years 3 and 5 now isolating.

A member of “the school community” at Broad Square Primary School tested positive, meaning they are their bubble are in self-isolation.

Pupils in Year 11 at Liverpool College have to isolate for two weeks after a positive coronavirus tests.

In Everton Hunts Cross Primary School and Our Lady of Immaculate School had to send some pupils home after an outbreak.

English Martyrs Catholic Primary Year 5 pupils have to spend a fortnight at home after a member of staff got the bug where as Litherland Moss shut entirely after Year 3 pupils tested positive.

Woodchurch High School and Co-op Academy Bebington have collectively have to tell hundreds of students to self-isolate after pupils at the former and staff at the latter caught the disease.

Ridgeway High School, Brackenwood Infant School and Bidston Village Primary School have been affected to an unknown extent after reported cases.

Meadow Park School – a pupil referral unit – closed after an outbreak among staff.

All Saints Catholic High School remains open despite two pupils testing positive for coronavirus last week.

Parents of children at Longton Lane Primary School received an email on Tuesday morning informing them there had been a confirmed case of Covid-19 at Kidzone, the neighbouring private nursery that also provides Longton Lane’s after-school club. 

Oldham

Thirteen schools in Oldham have had coronavirus outbreaks.

  • St Martin’s CE Primary, Oldham – (One class)
  • Yew Tree Community School, Chadderton – (Class 4 Red)
  • Hey with Zion, Lees, Oldham – (Nursery)
  • Whitegate End Primary and Nursery, Chadderton, Oldham – (One Year
  • Sandbrook Community Primary School, Rochdale – (One bubble)
  • Broadfield Primary School, Rochdale – (Three bubbles)
  • Marland Hill Community Primary School, Rochdale – (Two bubbles)
  • St Cuthbert’s RC High School, Rochdale – (Year 11)
  • Boarshaw Primary School, Middleton – (One bubble)
  • Middleton Parish Church School
  • Bowlee Park Community School, Middleton – (Year 1 Class 3 and Year 1 Class 4)
  • St Luke’s Primary, Heywood – (Year 2 and 3)
  • St Anne’s Academy, Middleton – (Small number of students)

Penrith

Ullswater Community College staff said one of its students has tested positive for the virus.

Preston

Dozens of students were sent home from Cardinal Newman College after a positive case of coronavirus on September 7.

Students who share classes with the infected student must self-isolate for 14 days.

Rochdale

Ten schools in Rochdale have had coronavirus outbreaks. They are:

  • Sandbrook Community Primary School, Rochdale – (One bubble)
  • Broadfield Primary School, Rochdale – (Three bubbles)
  • Marland Hill Community Primary School, Rochdale – (Two bubbles)
  • St Cuthbert’s RC High School, Rochdale – (Year 11)
  • Boarshaw Primary School, Middleton – (One bubble)
  • Middleton Parish Church School
  • Bowlee Park Community School, Middleton – (Year 1 Class 3 and Year 1 Class 4)
  • St Luke’s Primary, Heywood – (Year 2 and 3)
  • St Anne’s Academy, Middleton – (Small number of students
  • Meanwood Primary, Rochdale – (Year 2 and Year 4)

Rossendale

The Valley Leadership Academy sent home a group of pupils after a student in Year 11 tested positive for coronavirus.

Salford

Five schools in Salford have had coronavirus outbreaks. They are:

  • Harrop Fold, Salford – (Year 11)
  • Buile Hill Academy, Salford – (Year 7)
  • Co-op Academy Swinton – (Year 7 and Year 10)
  • Ellenbrook Primary School, Walkden, Salford – (One class from Year 3)
  • Salford City Academy, Eccles – (Small number in Year 11)

NORTH EAST

Barnsley

St Helen’s Primary Academy confirmed that a teacher tested positive for the virus, meaning all students in that teacher’s class must now self-isolate for two weeks.

On September 6, Athersley South Primary School confirmed that a positive case of the virus had been identified at the school.

Students in Year 8 and 9 only were advised to stay home for two weeks and have been told they can return to school on September 17.

On September 8, Wellgate Primary School confirmed they had one confirmed case of the virus within the school.

On September 7, Barugh Green Primary School closed two of its class bubbles after a child in each was confirmed to have the virus.

On September 10, two departments at Barnsley College were closed after three members of staff tested positive for coronavirus.

Consett

Consett Academy told parents a child had tested positive on Tuesday.

It said the school remains open however and that a small number of students are self-isolating.

Darlington

Four days after children returned to school Hummersknott Academy confirmed a Year 7 student had its first case of Covid-19.

On Monday, Staindrop Academy told parents the school had a confirmed case.

Durham

Laurel Avenue Primary School told parents on Monday that a pupil had tested positive.

The day after that Belmont School confirmed that a member of non-teaching staff had tested positive for Covid-19, with Coxhoe Primary School following closely behind.

There has been a confirmed case of Covid-19 at Seaham Trinity Primary School in County Durham, meaning Year 1 pupils have to stay home.

Gateshead

St Thomas More Catholic School sent pupils home after a Year 9 student contracted the disease.

Hartlepool

St Aidan’s primary school saw a pupil or staff member test positive.

Head teacher Lynn Chambers told parents that after taking advice from Public Health England, there was no need to close parts of the school or ask any children to self-isolate.

Houghton le Spring

Shiney Row Primary School closed both Year 1 and Year 6 groups after a confirmed case within the school.

Easington Lane Primary School shut its nursery after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend.

Lanchester

The whole of Year 8 at St Bede’s Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre were told to self-isolate after an infection was confirmed at the Lanchester school.

North Shields

Marden High School’s headteacher said a pupil had tested positive for the virus.

Ryhope

St Patrick’s Primary School is asking all children in reception to self-isolate for 14 days.

YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER

Bradford

Dixons Academies Trust, which runs 12 academies in Bradford and Leeds, has confirmed that two staff members and one student have tested positive for the virus at three academies.

While the Trust has not named the schools, two of them are understood to be Dixons Trinity Academy and Dixons Kings Academy.

A small number of staff and students have been asked to self-isolate.

On September 8 , Bradford Academy wrote to parents informing them that a member of staff had the bug.

The school said that Public Health England’s advice was to keep the bubble that the teacher taught in open, as he had socially distanced while teaching.

On September 12, Parkside School closed after two members of staff tested positive for coronavirus.

Cleethorpes

A teacher at Cleethorpes Academy tested positive for Covid-19.

However, because of the strict social distancing measures in place on the site, the school remains open to all other staff and pupils unless they fell unwell.

Coulby Newham

The King’s Academy confirmed a positive test of a Year 7 pupil, prompting the entire year group to self-isolate.

Keighley

A staff member at Beckfoot Oakbank School tested positive for the virus and was asked to stay home for two weeks.

Three other members of staff were also asked to self-isolate after coming into close contact with the staff member, though the school’s head teacher said that no students have been affected.

Leeds

Bardsey Primary School will only welcome back Years 5 and 6 on September 8 after a member of staff tested positive.

The rest of the school are now set for another week of home learning.

On September 11, Castleton Primary School asked a small number of children to remain at home until September 21 after someone tested positive for the virus.

Marsden

A child in Year 6 at Lisle Marsden Church of England Primary Academy tested positive.

Parents of other Year 6 children who have been in close proximity to the pupil have been contacted, but all other children are continuing to attend.

Middlesborough

Outwood Academy Ormesby school leaders said in a short statement that a confirmed case had been found “within the school community” earlier this week.

The person who tested positive did not contract the virus at the secondary school.

On Tuesday a Year 7 pupil had tested positive for the virus at Kings Academy.

Their whole year group will now have to self-isolate.

Nunthorpe Academy confirmed it had seen a Covid-19 case.

All those with close contact to the affected pupil were told to self-isolate until September 22.

Hemlington Hall Academy is to close for 14 days after five staff members tested positive for coronavirus.

Ormesby

Ormesby Primary School told its parents that all Year 5 pupils would need to self-isolate due to a confirmed case.

Redcar

A positive case had been recorded at St Benedict’s RC primary school.

Ings Farm Primary School has also seen a positive case, although it remains open to all but those directly in contact with the student. 

MIDLANDS

Bicester

Year 2 pupils and some staff at Five Acres Primary School were told to stay at home for 14 days following an outbreak.

Bilborough

Glenbrook Primary School partially closed after a member of staff tested positive.

Bingham

Robert Miles Junior School sent a Year 5 bubble home after a member of staff tested positive.

Birmingham

Pupils in Year 11 student at Greenwood Academy tested positive after showing symptoms of Covid-19, sparking a 14-day quarantine for classmates.

A class of students at Erdington Academy have been sent home after a positive case.

Year 8 and 11 bubbles at King Edward’s Five Ways were told to self isolate after one pupil in each year group reported they had received a positive test result over the weekend.

Hall Green Infant and Junior School sent home its Year 4 and 5s after positive cases, while a Year 1 class from Lakey Lane were sent home.

All pupils and employees in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 at Prince Albert Primary School were told to stay home for 14 days.

Yardley Primary School sent home pupils today after a positive case.

Blaby

Barlestone Primary School sent several pupils home after they came into contact with a student who tested positive for Covid-19.

A Year 3 pupil caught the bug at Blaby Stone Primary, meaning everyone in the year had to self-isolate for 14 days.

Blackfordby

Blackfordby Church of England Primary has been shut for a deep clean after an outbreak.

Blyth

Newsham Primary School has sent its Year 1s home after a child tested positive.

A reception class of 30 children at Bede Academy in Blyth have been advised to self-isolate until September 18 after a confirmed case.

Braunstone

A teacher tested positive at Fullhurst Community College, leading Year 10 pupils to a period of self-isolation.

Bromford

Pupils in Years 4 and 6 at Firs Primary Academy have been told to isolate for a fortnight following two confirmed cases at the school.

Chapel Hill

A member of staff at St Cecilia’s RC High School tested positive on September 5.

No pupils have been affected but 12 members of staff have been advised to self isolate for 14 days.

Chesterfield

Parents of Year 5 students at Newbold Church of England Primary School in Cranborne Road were told to collect children on Thursday.

Coalville

A school visited by Boris Johnson on August 26 temporarily shut after a member of staff caught the disease.

The Castle Rock School hosted the Prime Minister as he went on a press tour when schools reopened after months of lockdown.

Only those staff and students who came into direct contact with the person infected will be made to stay home for two weeks, with Castle Rock due to open its doors on September 15 to everyone else.

Corby

Studfall Junior Academy said a Year 4 pupil had tested positive for Covid-19.

They are the only person that has had to self-isolate.

A member of AYear 5 group at Hazel Leys Primary Academy tested positive, meaning their bubble has been told to home school for the next 14 days.

Countesthorpe

Four members of staff have had to isolate after a teacher caught the bug at Countesthorpe Leysland Community College.

Coventry

A child in Year 1 at Parkgate Primary School has caught the bug.

Parents of all children in Year 1 at the school have been told that their child must self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.

Elsewhere in the city Longford Park Primary School, Foxford Community School, John Gulson Primary School, Park Hill Primary School and West Coventry Academy have reported cases.

Before the weekend there were 23 confirmed cases in the city’s school system.

Croxton Kerrial

Croxton Kerrial Primary School has been closed after a positive case was reported.

Desford

Last weekend at Bosworth Academy pupil found out they had the bug.

They did not go to school on the Monday, meaning class can continue as normal.

Dudley

The Wordsley School confirmed there had been a positive case on September 8.

Grantham

All Year 7 pupils, along with four staff, have been sent home from King’s School.

Groby

Three members of staff at Brookdale Groby Learning Campus must self-isolate after catching the virus.

Guildford

Sandfield Primary School wrote to parents on September 7 to confirm it had sent the Year 3 bubble home after a positive case.

Evington

Judgemeadow Community College pupils in Year 10 and 11 have been sent home after a student got the bug.

Harlow

The Freshwaters Primary Academy closed on Tuesday after a number of students displayed coronavirus symptoms.

The school announced it will stay shut until negative test results come back.

Handsworth Wood

Parents were told to pick their children up from school ‘as soon as possible’ on September 10 after a case was confirmed in Year 2 at Cherry Orchard Primary School and Nursery.

Heanor

Senior staff at Heanor Gate Science College confirmed that a year 10 pupil had contracted the disease.

But because the youngster had not been in lessons since last Friday, no other students need to self-isolate.

Howitt Primary Community School sent a number of children home, who were in the same “bubble”, after a Year 6 pupil also tested positive for coronavirus.

Hucknall

A member of staff at Holgate Primary and Nursery School tested positive, meaning they and 29 children were sent home.

Humberstone

A single pupil has tested positive at Merrydale Infants School.

A teacher has been infected at Falcons Primary, leading Year 4 students to self-isolate.

A Humberstone Junior Academy child also has the bug, meaning they and their bubble have to self-isolate.

Kibworth

A Year 10 student was sent home after one day back at Beauchamp College having tested positive.

Kingshurst

Tudor Grange Academy sent a letter to parents informing them that a Year 7 pupil had tested positive for Covid-19.

The pupil was not in school whilst symptomatic but in accordance with guidelines, the pupil’s tutor and support bubble will be required to self-isolate.

Leicester

The Winstanley School has recorded a case.

Parents have been urged to watch their children and get them to self-isolate if they begin showing symptoms.

A member of staff and a teacher have tested positive for the bug at New College.

A class bubble worth of pupils at English Martyrs School in Year 9 have been made to self-isolate after a pupil caught the disease.

A single case at Wyvern Primary has seen several staff and pupils embark on a period of self-isolation, while a member of staff at Ellesmere College also has the bug.

One student has been confirmed as having the virus at each of Orchard Mead Academy, Mowmacre Hill Primary, Catherine Infants School, Crown Hills Community College, City of Leicester College, Shenton Primary, Medway Primary, Overdale Infant School and Lancaster Academy.

Loughborough

Woodbrook Vale School has had to send several dozen pupils home for a fortnight after a single pupil caught the bug.

Mansfield

Two pupils at Berry Hill Primary School caught the bug, meaning two classes were put in self-isolation for two weeks.

Market Harborough

A pupil at Ridgeway Primary Academy has tested positive for the coronavirus.

They have been asked to self-isolate for 10 days.

Other pupils who were in close contact with the child have been asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

Northampton

Greenfields Specialist School for Communication has recorded a case.

Because the school is separated into zones to stop everyone mixing, only limited numbers have been sent home.

Northampton International Academy sent one bubble of students home after a teacher caught the bug.

Nuneaton

A pupil at Chetwynd Junior School tested positive.

They have been told to self-isolate for 14 days along with people close to them.

Nottingham

Mellers Primary School has been forced to close after a teacher tested positive for coronavirus.

The school confirmed a Year 1 teacher had tested positive for Covid-19 in a statement on its website.

Oadby

Brocks Hill Primary School has told two Year 3 classes worth of pupils to stay home for 14 days after two children tested positive.

A Year 10 pupil at Gartree High School tested positive, prompting the rest of the year being told to stay home until September 21.

Oldbury

Pupils at Oldbury Academy were told they must self-isolate for 14 days on Friday, September 11.

The rest of the school remains open, with children not directly affected by the case urged to attend as normal.

Radford

Mellers Primary School saw a Year 1 and Year 3 teacher test positive for coronavirus at the start of last week.

All Year 1 and Year 3 pupils were been told to stay at home for 14 days and register for a test if they feel unwell.

The school cannot currently reopen for the remaining pupils “for the time being” as too many staff members are either self-isolating or getting tested.

Quinton

Year 4 pupils at World’s End Junior School have been ordered to remain at home.

Retford

A group of pupils from Carr Hill Primary School were sent home and told to self-isolate for 14 days after there was a positive case on-site.

The school remains open.

Rocester

The JCB Academy confirmed a positive case after being one of the first schools in England to reopen in August.

It was closed on Friday September 4 as a precaution but reopened the following on Monday with around 100 students self-isolating.

Rothwell

A Year 10 student in Montsaye Academy has caught the bug, meaning people in their bubble were told to self-isolate.

Rugby

St Matthew’s Bloxham Primary and Bilton High Schools have also both had positive cases.

Neither of them have closed.

Saltley

Highfield Junior and Infant School in Saltley closed to pupils and staff in Year 4 and 5 after an unconfirmed number of cases.

Sandwell

Thirty students at Moat Farm Junior School were told to self-isolate on September 10, the day after Year 4 pupils and teachers from Ocker Hill Academy were sent home.

Foxyards Primary School has had to send two year groups home after an outbreak.

A bubble has been told to self-isolate following a case in Year 9 at Stuart Bathurst Catholic High School.

Wodensborough Ormiston Academy confirmed a student had tested positive, leaving 27 students and one staff member in self-isolation.

Sapcote

A child tested positive at All Saints Church of England.

Scampton

Scampton C of E Primary School sent a class load of pupils and a teacher home after a student tested positve.

EAST ANGLIA

Beechdale

Robert Shaw Primary and Nursery School has told Year 5s to self-isolate after a teacher caught the disease.

Haverhill

Five members of staff tested positive at Samuel Ward Academy.

The school closed on Monday for a deep clean to be carried out and so the headteacher can establish who the staff members have been in contact with.

It reopened on Wednesday.

Hitchin

Hitchin Boys’ School closed after a member of staff tested positive.

A ‘significant number’ of other staff are having to self isolate and a ‘few cases’ where pupils had closer contact with the staff member.

Head teacher Fergal Moane confirmed the school is looking at a mixture of remote and on-site learning for the two week period.

Kings Langley

There has been a positive Covid-19 test of a Year 5 student at Kings Langley Primary School.

The year five bubble were told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Norwich

A pupil or member of staff at George White Junior School was told to self-isolate for 14 days after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Old Buckenham

Old Buckenham High School closed last week after a member of staff tested positive.

Radlett

A ‘small number of pupils’ tested positive at the Hertsmere Jewish Primary School and three classes have been self-isolating as a result.

SOUTH EAST

Aylesford

A Year 6 pupil from Valley Invicta Primary School tested positive and the whole year group were told to self isolate.

Aylesbury

A student at Aylesbury Grammar School has tested positive for Covid-19.

One form group from Year 8 has been told to isolate as a result.

Ashford

There has been a case reported at Echelford Primary School.

Battle

Claverham Community College has had a confirmed case of Covid-19 but remains open.

Bracknell

Parents of students at Garth Hill College, Edgbarrow and The Brakenhale School have received letters warning that there have been outbreaks.

Four students from Garth Hill’s sixth form are in isolation as are an unspecified number from Brakenhale’s Year 13.

It is not known what year has been affected from Edgebarrow.

Bromley

Bromley College has been deep cleaned after a staff member tested positive for coronavirus – though students have been told to still attend.

Red Hill Primary School confirmed an individual at the school has coronavirus and that everyone who was considered a ‘close contact’ has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Bushey

Two members of staff tested positive at the Bushey Meads Academy and were sent home immediately.

No students have been in close contact with the staff members.

The headteacher says the school is safe and all necessary Public Health England advice is being followed.

Chelmsford

The head teacher of Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford confirmed that one of the pupils at the institution has received a positive diagnosis for Covid-19.

Chesham

An unknown number of pupils at Chesham Grammar School caught the virus last week.

Most of them are said to have been infected abroad during the school holidays.

The school had not reopened when the cases were confirmed.

Chobham

A pupil at Valley End C of E Infant School caught the bug.

Croydon

A staff member at Ridgeway Primary School and Nursery tested positive last Saturday – a couple of days before pupils returned for the new academic year.

Dartford

‘A number of staff’ at Longfield Academy have been told to self-isolate after a member of support staff is unwell with a suspected case of Covid-19, a spokesman has said.

Given the circumstances of the case it is being treated as a confirmed case.

Didcot

Hadden Hill Nursery was be closed until September Friday 11 following an outbreak.

The nursery has not specified whether it is a child or a member of staff who has coronavirus.

Enfield

Wilbury Primary School welcomed back children on Monday but on Tuesday the school was forced to close a ‘bubble class’ after a child tested positive for the virus.

Hersham

Bell Farm Primary School sent letters to parents informing them that pupils in Year 1 have contracted the virus.

Hove

Six people have now tested positive for the coronavirus at Cardinal Newman Catholic School since the start of term.

It is thought the cases are linked to an eighteenth birthday party, also attended by a Brighton, Hove And Sussex VI Form College student.

A further three students at the college contracted the disease, with nine people in total now in isolation.

Hounslow

Heston Community School has suffered one positive case.

The school has sent home one tutor group to self-isolate ‘as a precautionary measure’ but will remain open for everyone else.

Cranford Community College announced a ‘new female student’ had received a positive test.

A total of 27 students and two teachers who had been in contact with her have been told to self-isolate.

Isle of Wight

Cowes Primary School sent letters to parents saying an individual had coronavirus.

The council said the school is following the advice of Public Health England and has asked the other children in that class bubble, the teacher and teaching assistant to self-isolate for 14 days.

Maidenhead

Manor Green School is the latest school to see positive test result.

Headteacher Joolz Scarlett said: “Opening the school in an international pandemic is not without risk, and were a special school, so so some pupils have very complex special needs which make them vulnerable.

“So we have given parents the option to continue home schooling.

“Very few parents have taken us up on that offer and most pupils are in.”

Marlow

There has been an outbreak amongst Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School pupils.

It is not known how many pupils were affected.

Medway

A Strood Academy employee and three other members of staff have been advised to self isolate after a positive case at the school. 

Oxford

The Cherwell School advised pupils and parents that an unnamed employee had contracted Covid-19 and was self-isolating.

Students are still expected to come to school.

Reading

A “class bubble” at Katesgrove Primary School, 30 pupils plus a teacher and an assistant, were sent home after a positive test this week.

They must now self-isolate for a period of 14 days.

Rayleigh

A member of staff at Sweyne Park School tested positive for the virus.

Any other staff member or pupil who came into close contact with the affected person has been sent home.

SOUTH WEST

Bristol

One Year 6 child has been diagnosed with the bug at Shirehampton Primary School.

The entire year group is self-isolating for 14 days.

Two Mile Hill Primary School tested positive leading 160 students of mixed ages to self-isolate.

John William Oasis Academy saw one confirmed case, leading all of Year 7 to isolate.

Kings’ Forest Primary School had one Year 1 pupil test positive, with the result being their 27 class mates being put in isolation.

Calne

St Margaret’s Preparatory School has asked all 27 pupils and three staff in Year 3 to self-isolate for 14 days.

Plymouth

A student at Plymouth College tested positive for coronavirus.

The private school, located in Ford Park, confirmed a Year 11 day pupil has received a positive result for Covid-19 and the whole Year 11 “year group bubble” will isolate at home for a quarantine period of 14 days.

What’s REALLY behind Britain’s testing fiasco? How over-stretched and ‘under-staffed’ laboratories designed to fight the pandemic are crippling the UK’s response

Twitter user Ian Spencer said he had been met with this message when trying to book a coronavirus test, echoing the experience of many others

Twitter user Ian Spencer said he had been met with this message when trying to book a coronavirus test, echoing the experience of many others

Public are being denied tests or told to travel cross-country 

People all over England are being denied access to coronavirus tests or told they must travel across the country, dozens or hundreds of miles, to get one.

Members of the public must use the online booking system to arrange a coronavirus test to be sent to their home or to make an appointment at a drive- or walk-in centre.

But many say they are simply being met with a page that says ‘This service is currently very busy’ and ends their attempt to book the test, advising them to try again later.

Others say they have been told they can go for tests at centres in different towns, cities, counties or even countries which could take hours to drive to.

Speaker of the House of Commons and MP for Chorley in Lancashire, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, this morning said the situation was ‘unacceptable’ in a tweet.

MPs are furious that their constituents cannot get tested near to their home when the Government is so insistent that people should get a test if they feel ill.

Bosses at hospitals, care homes and schools say their staff are having to stay home from work and self-isolate because they feel ill but can’t get tested.

In its most recent week of full data – up to September 7 – the Department of Health claimed it had capacity to carry out and process 243,817 tests per day in Pillars 1 & 2.

But it was doing an average of 182,564 per day and still ended up overwhelmed.

Capacity was drastically bolstered during April, as Mr Hancock pledged the UK would be able to test 100,000 people a day by May. 

It was ramped up again to around 200,000 by June — but has barely changed since then, despite warnings that Britain would need more as it heads towards the winter and children go back to school.

Access is even being restricted in Covid-19 hotspots 

Even people living in some of the worst-affected parts of England say they are struggling to get tested for Covid-19.

These areas, which receive ‘enhanced support’ from Public Health England, are supposed to have extra testing facilities and mobile units set up.

MPs said a mobile unit that was meant to set up in Oldham, Greater Manchester, never arrived.

And shocking footage showed a huge queue reportedly five hours long outside a test centre in Bury, Manchester, last Thursday.  

Bury has one of the worst infection rates in the country, with 47 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people, according to PHE.

People were also struggling to get swabbed in other hard-hit places including Bolton (122 cases per 100k), Blackburn (62) and Pendle (58).

A huge queue of people is pictured outside a coronavirus testing centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 8am this morning. Many of the people reportedly turned up hoping they would be allowed in, but hadn't made appointments

A huge queue of people is pictured outside a coronavirus testing centre at Southend-on-Sea, Essex, at 8am this morning. Many of the people reportedly turned up hoping they would be allowed in, but hadn’t made appointments

Officials blame ‘laboratory capacity’ for shortcomings 

The crux of the problem is that the Government’s laboratories can’t process the coronavirus tests as quickly as people are taking them.

Every test – which uses a swab like a large cotton bud – has first to be used by the person, then posted back to the lab, then processed in a specialised machine, then interpreted by a lab technician and the result put through a database and texted to the person who took the test.

This is supposed to take 24 hours but often takes longer.

The process inside the laboratory – the swab running through the machine and the result being noted by a technician – is the ‘pinch-point’, officials say.

Director of testing at NHS Test & Trace last week said on Twitter: ‘Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present.

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

‘We have additional NHS, Lighthouse, University and Partner Labs all due to open up imminently and we are also expanding the use of non-Laboratory based tests. The testing team work on this 18 hours a day, seven days a week. We recognise the country is depending on us.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock echoed this in Parliament today. He said the country has ‘record levels’ of lab capacity but admitted: ‘It is in the labs that the constraint is’.

A new giant lab is set to open near Loughborough by the end of this month. It is not clear by how much this will boost test capacity.

Are test-processing labs short-staffed? 

Part of the reason for labs not being able to keep up, some have claimed, is that they may not have enough qualified staff to operate the test-processing machines.   

Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary for Labour, claimed the system was in difficulty because post-graduate science students who had been working in the labs over the summer were now leaving.

He said in Parliament today: ‘Extra demand on the system was inevitable. So why didn’t [Matt Hancock] use the summer to significantly expand NHS capacity and fix contact tracing?

‘And just as demand is increasing, the ability to process tests is diminishing. Post-grad students working in the Lighthouse Labs are returning to university, so why did we not plan for these inevitable staff shortages in the Lighthouse Labs?’

An expert in the field said many technicians had been drafted in on intense short-term contracts during the crisis but were now going back to their everyday jobs.

Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association (BIVDA), told The Telegraph: ‘People worked really, really hard for the first three or four months. 

‘I think everyone just ran out of steam, needed to recharge their batteries. 

‘It could be that it’s just getting back up to strength again after everyone has had a bit of a break in August.’

But one leading scientist was not convinced that the problem was quite as simple as ‘lab capacity’.

Professor Alan McNally, a University of Birmingham expert who helped set up the Government’s Milton Keynes Lighthouse Lab, said a ‘perfect storm’ of events have crashed the testing system.

He told BBC Breakfast there were ‘clearly underlying issues which nobody wants to tell us about’.

He said: ‘The labs are still fully staffed, they are still churning through huge amounts of samples per day – the same number as they were a couple of months ago – so there are problems elsewhere in the chain…

‘I think this is multi-factorial. I think you almost have a perfect storm of events that have come together to almost essentially crash the testing system.

‘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.’ 

What is the impact of growing pressure on test labs?

A large workload for testing labs around the UK means that people’s results are taking longer to process – many people have to wait more than the target 24 hours to find out their result.

This means that the government is throttling the number of tests that are sent out to avoid completely overwhelming the system.

So people in some areas are finding it difficult to access swabs, and in lesser-affected areas the number of tests available may be cut so there are more to distribute in hotspots.

The Health Secretary confirmed today that yesterday testing in the 10 worst affected areas accounted for 9,278 of the total. The total has not been published but this is likely to be around five per cent of all tests. 

There are concerns that a system that is frustrating or slow to use will put people off and members of the public will stop bothering to use it. 

Should people still be ordering tests?

Yes, anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus (a cough, fever or lost sense of taste/smell) must order a test however they can. 

People who do not have symptoms, and have not been instructed by a medical professional to get tested, should not order a test.

Matt Hancock last week vented frustration at ‘ineligible’ people ordering tests but this was a reference to those who were getting swabs just because they thought they might be at risk because their child had gone back to school or they had been on holiday.

Tests are still reserved mainly for people with symptoms and essential workers who are officially referred by their employer. The rules are laid out here.

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