Labour MP David Lammy has said the government’s coronavirus booking system is sending people hundreds of miles away from their home to be tested.
Lammy said he was contacted by a constituent who was told to travel to Inverness from London to get tested – a ten-hour journey of around 650 miles.
The shadow justice minister tweeted: ‘A constituent has just got in touch upset that the nearest drive-through Covid test a pupil in Tottenham has been offered is in Inverness.
‘The result is they are being kept home from school. This is bonkers.’ He urged the government to ‘quickly explain and fix its approach to testing’.
Lammy’s message sparked a flurry of similar stories being shared on Twitter.
Fellow Labour MP Catherine West, who represents Hornsey and Wood Green in London, said one of her constituents had been told to visit a centre two hours away in Swindon.
‘What a farce. A constituent of mine has just got in touch to say they’ve been sent to Swindon for a test. Government needs to urgently resolve this – it makes no sense to send people who potentially have COVID across the country for testing.’
Freelance journalist Mark Ludmon said he had tried to get tested four days in a row. ‘I tried repeatedly for 4 days and (not having a car) I found no walk-in test centre appointments available and no home test kits available. I’m in London. This was not a website issue. It is a nationwide shortage of tests during a pandemic,’ he said.
Stephen Bacon wrote: ‘I live in South Yorkshire and was told my nearest test centre is in Scotland.’
One user who lives in Stoke-on-Trent was advised to visit a centre in Aberystwyth and then Dundee this morning. ‘I kept trying & eventually got one a few miles away in Stafford. No postal test available. This took me 2.5 hours to sort out! How on earth do people manage who are less IT literate manage?’ she said.
Another wrote: ‘My family and I were sent to a test centre miles away. We drive to an empty Covid site local to us instead and got tested. Couldn’t believe the incompetence of the system.’
Christine Allsopp quipped: ‘Must be a mutant algorithm…’
Others say they have been told to go to Dundee from Dorset and London, St Andrews from Lancashire, and Stranraer from Belfast.
Health secretary Matt Hancock has been out defending the system, insisting it ‘works well’.
Hancock said: ‘At the moment the system works well. Of course there are operational challenges from time to time but it works well.
‘And we’re finding a higher and higher proportion of people in the country who have coronavirus and getting them tests so they can be looked after.
‘But absolutely, we need to roll out more testing – we have done throughout this crisis and today’s another step in solving some of those problems with the existing technology.’