17 Sep Coronavirus: ‘Chaos’ as drivers queue for hours for COVID-19 tests before being turned away | UK News
In scenes of “absolute pandemonium” and “chaos”, drivers queued for hours as they tried to get a coronavirus test only to be turned away – as the system struggled to cope with soaring demand.
At a site in Lewisham, south London, lots of “very angry” people were shouting at each other to move, and also at the staff, according to an eyewitness.
Henry Bull said they were all asked to leave without getting tested.
Staff said booking a test online was not enough – they needed a QR code which almost nobody had.
Meanwhile, around 50 people were parked up at the Doxford Park testing site in Sunderland – one of the areas put in a North East lockdown – but there was no tent or other infrastructure, no staff to swab them and no officials to explain what had happened.
There have been reports this month of people being told to travel hundreds of miles to get a test as demand outstrips supply as coronavirus infections continue to rise.
Mr Bull, 29, had cycled to Lewisham from his nearby home in Peckham after booking an appointment online as he had a cough.
He described the scene as “absolute pandemonium, chaos”, adding: “The entire junction is gridlocked with cars queuing to get into it, loads of car drivers getting out and shouting at each other to move out of the way.
“Once you actually get to the site, nobody has received the QR code that you have to have to get tested.”
He said one woman who had been queuing for four hours burst into tears after being told she would not be seen.
“A pretty horrible, stressful situation all round to be honest, lots of very upset people, presumably several of whom have COVID as well so exposing a lot of us to infection,” he continued.
Sky reporter Ivor Bennett said the test centre was “the epicentre of the traffic jam from hell. For miles around, for hours on end, there was gridlock in every direction”.
He explained: “The reason was because hundreds of people were queuing for a test centre, that to all intents and purposes, didn’t exist.
“A single trestle table was set up, under a gazebo, in a car park behind Lewisham Town Hall. But instead of swabbing people there, men in orange hi-vis vests were waving people away at the entrance.
“Booking a test online, they said, was not enough. They wanted a QR too, which almost no one had. The one man who claimed he did, was told the centre had closed. The time was 3.40pm.
“There were people who’d travelled from across the South East – Southampton, Harlow, Tunbridge Wells, Maidenhead. Frustrations boiled over as some confronted staff, whose response was always the same – ‘it’s not our fault’.”
Meanwhile in Sunderland, HGV mechanic Brad Cockburn took the afternoon off work unpaid to make a 100-mile round trip from Bedale, North Yorkshire, to a site on an out-of-town business park but found the infrastructure and officials not there.
The 28-year-old said: “They’re supposed to put these things in place to get people working again. Now they’ve got all these people congregating here and nobody to test them.”
Rob Reid, from Sunderland, was among those to book a coronavirus test and travel to the site – only to find out there were no swabs available.
The 58-year-old said: “My concern is about my health and it comes across that the government is not that concerned, when they are taking bookings on the NHS website and there’s nobody here to do it.”
When another driver was asked how he felt, he simply replied: “Stressed.”
The head of the Test and Trace system has said she doesn’t believe “anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand” for coronavirus tests.
Reports have poured in of people saying they were told tests were unavailable or had to be done hundreds of miles away from where they live.