Britons desperately trying to get hold of coronavirus tests are even resorting to queuing up in A&E for hours amid a shortage across the country.
Huge queues were seen outside testing centres in Manchester, Birmingham, Bury, and Essex after many struggled to get an appointment online for days. People at Southend’s Covid Testing centre had been waiting since 6am for a test this morning.
The health secretary admitted yesterday that tests are now having to be rationed after facing ‘operational challenges’.
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust urged people not to visit A&E if they required a test or had symptoms, after seeing queues of up to 100 people. The town is currently grappling with the highest infection rates in the country.
The Trust wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night: ‘A&E is currently very busy, managing a high volume of patients who have arrived requesting a #COVID19 test’.
Trust chair Professor Donna Hall said Bolton residents had been trying to get tests via their GPs and the hospital, after failing to get them online or at mobile testing units.
She told BBC Radio Four’s The World Tonight: ‘We had 100 people in our accident and emergency unit today, five ambulances queuing outside.
‘This failure of the test and trace system is placing huge pressure on the NHS and social care.’
‘We’re seeing wards full of people,’ she added. ‘We’ve now got 30 people who are Covid-positive and we’ve got five people in our high dependency unit so this is not going away, this virus is not going away.’
Royal Bolton Hospital’s medical director said staff have started to see a rise in the number of cases being admitted with confirmed or suspected coronavirus, following the spike in infections in the town.
Dr Francis Andrews said A&E is ‘very busy’ and urged the public to consider whether their concern – if not life-threatening or serious – could be dealt with elsewhere.
He said: ‘Please do not attend the hospital here if you think you’ve got Covid -19 for testing, unless you are seriously unwell, for example if you’ve got difficulty with breathing, or if you have been sent here from your consultation with your GP.’
Speaking of the spike in cases, he said: ‘This is not what we wanted to see but I wanted to assure you that we are managing the situation and also we are well prepared for this.’
Reports from across the UK have suggested tests have been widely unavailable, with those in coronavirus hotspots unable to book walk-in, drive-through or home tests.
An enormous queue was seen outside Southend’s Covid Testing Site at 8am on Tuesday and it reportedly ran out of tests just two hours later.
Joe Davies, who queued up, told the Mirror: ‘I was able to turn up and get a walk through test today. It is capped but it’s impossible to get a test otherwise.
‘I spent the whole day yesterday refreshing the testing page to no avail.’
Matt Hancock said yesterday that tests are now being rationed, with people in care homes and those with acute medical needs being prioritised.
He insisted the issue would be resolved in ‘a matter of weeks’ as he came under fire in the Commons – but stopped short of explaining the reasons behind the shortage.
Boris Johnson is expected to face a grilling over concerns with the test and trace system in the Commons later today.
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