Surrey’s nearest coronavirus testing sites are eerily quiet despite there being high demand from residents for testing.
Pictures taken from the drive-through centre in Chessington on Friday (September 11) showed a site that was void of vehicles and visitors, with staff having seemingly little to do.
It follows concerns that there are no COVID-19 testing slots available for most people in Surrey as the government struggles to cope with the high demand for tests amid a rise in infections. The R number for Surrey and the south east also crucially rose to higher than 1 on Friday.
People have repeatedly been told to self-isolate and book a test immediately if they experience coronavirus symptoms.
Responding to growing concerns surrounding testing, Guildford and Cranleigh Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson Zöe Franklin said that the lack of available testing was posing “a real risk” that families will have to self-isolate unnecessarily.
She added: “The past few days I have become increasingly concerned by the numbers of local people having issues getting access to coronavirus tests. I have received contact from local residents and seen many comments on social media complaining that they are unable to get a test appointment or are being offered an appointment many miles away.
“I have spoken with Guildford Borough Council Leader Caroline Reeves who has advised me that the Council is doing everything it can to facilitate additional testing capacity locally.
“However, she has been informed that a significant part of the problem in terms of appointment availability is that laboratory capacity is unable to cope with the increasing demand for coronavirus tests and, as a result, appointments are being limited.
“It is crucial that tests are available to everyone who needs them otherwise there is a real risk that families and individuals locally, plus their contacts, will end up having to self-isolate unnecessarily. The knock-on impact of this will be felt by people’s personal finances and the local economy, just as it was starting to recover.”
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The Lib Dem spokesperson also said it was “deeply frustrating” that central government issues were hampering the efforts of the local councils to keep residents safe.
A resident in Knaphill contacted SurreyLive last week to say they had been unable to book a test, having tried since Thursday evening (September 10). We tried entering postcodes for central parts of Staines, Woking and Oxted, .
For each postcode, the government website stated that there were no drive-through or walk-through testing sites available. No home testing kits were available, either.
The government, though, says it is prioritising at-risk groups, so it may be possible for some.
‘I am at my wits’ end’
School parent Clare Cornell needed to book tests for her family after a pupil at her daughter’s school tested positive for coronavirus.
She told SurreyLive she was at her wits’ end because of the difficulty of attempting to book a test.
She said: “My daughter attends one of the local schools in Staines that have had a confirmed case. She now has cold symptoms with a mild fever and is coughing. I am a childminder and now cannot reopen until she is cleared by test. She cannot return to school even once she feels better and my son cannot move into his university halls on Sunday unless we get a test.
“Yesterday we booked one but there is an ongoing glitch with the website where you don’t receive a confirmation email and QR code, and therefore cannot access the test you thought you’d booked.
“We’ve been refreshing the website all day today and yesterday. Mostly we get a ‘no test sites found’ message. Excitingly we had a message earlier to say there were 84 slots available at Heathrow, but when we tried to book a time the message repeatedly changed to no time slots available.
“Quite frankly I am at my wits’ end.”
Extra testing sites have been provided by Guildford Borough Council at Guildford College and Sutherland Memorial Park over the last two weekends to try and negate issues.