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Ministers urged to get a grip as coronavirus testing chaos continues across West Midlands

By Peter Madeley | Sandwell | Coronavirus | Published:

Ministers have been urged to get a grip on coronavirus testing in the region as the system was plunged further into chaos.

People are being turned away from the Covid test centre in Cannock

Across the Black Country and Staffordshire people with Covid symptoms are struggling to get pre-booked tests at local centres, while some have told they need to travel more than 400 miles to Aberdeen for a test.

Meanwhile hundreds of people have been turned away from centres which have hit full capacity, with some walk-in test centres now switching to an appointment system after struggling to cope with demand.

Covid cases have continued to rise across the region, with Sandwell under a local lockdown and the rest of the Black Country on the brink of having stricter measures imposed.

In Staffordshire there has been 180 new cases in the seven days up to September 13, at a rate of 20.6 per 100,000 people.

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Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: "The testing situation is a shambles and is harming the effort to get on top of the increase in infections we have seen in recent weeks.

"The Government has had six months to put in place a testing regime with enough capacity to deal with the demand and it has failed to do so.

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"The result is some people either being unable to get tests at all or being quoted ludicrous distances to travel.

"It is essential if we want the return to school and work to be a success that there be a properly working test and trace system.

"The Government must get a grip of this situation and must do so now."

People are being turned away from the Covid test centre in Cannock

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Lisa McNally, Sandwell's director of public health, said many people in the borough had been unable to book tests via the national testing programme.

“We've contacted the Government testing team about this and made them aware of the trouble it's causing," she said.

"Households are having to self-isolate while they wait for a test, meaning people are missing work or school.

"The level of disruption and anxiety is growing.

"The Government have said they are trying to sort out the problems ASAP. We hope they can.

"In the meantime, we will keep people updated as we get more information from the Government on this issue."

A test centre on Cannock Chase Council car park was initially set up as a walk-in centre but has been appointment only this week due to high demand.

People are being turned away from the Covid test centre in Cannock

It has led to staff having to turn away people turning up for tests who have not pre-booked online.

Heath Hayes parish councillor Paul Dadge, chair of the Chase Coronavirus Support Network, said: "The staff there are working diligently but at the moment there is a lot of strain on the network.

"When it first opened it was underused. Now it is over capacity."

The same situation has happened at Wolverhampton's Showell Road site, which changed to appointment-only yesterday afternoon despite still being advertised as a walk-in centre.

Wolverhampton councillor Milkinder Jaspal said he was told by the NHS to travel 412 miles to Aberdeen for a test after experiencing Covid symptoms.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "NHS Test and Trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are seeing a significant demand for tests including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible."

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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