PEOPLE suffering from coronavirus symptoms have been told to travel hundreds of miles to visit their nearest testing site.

People from Brighton and Hove have been told they can make the journey to Leicester, the Isle of Wight or Cardiff to find out if they have contracted Covid-19.

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle was contacted by a constituent who was astonished at the proposed distances they might have to travel for a test.

The Argus:

The Labour politician blamed the situation on the government’s “incompetence” and shared his concerns on social media.

He said: “A local resident was concerned he might have a Covid symptom so went to the testing website.

“He was advised to drive to Cardiff. Yes, that Cardiff. The Cardiff that’s 132 miles from Sussex.

“Are they using the rest of us to normalise Dominic Cummings’ behaviour?

The Argus:

“Expecting people with Covid symptoms to drive across the country looking for a test perfectly illustrates the lamentable confusion and incompetence at the heart of government.

“It’s been eight months since the pandemic landed on our shores, it’s way past time government got its act together.

“Testing should have been devolved to local health authorities not handed to large companies who don’t understand local communities.”

The distance from Brighton to Cardiff is 190 miles each way.

The Argus:

The advice on where to go came from the government’s website, which provides a suggested “test site near you” after people suffering from coronavirus symptoms put in their location and other details.

Several similar cases have arisen since the testing site at the Amex in Brighton was closed last week, with one Argus reader telling the paper they had been told their nearest testing centre was in Leicester.

They said this was “the last place I want to travel for a test” with Leicester having been put into a local lockdown following a spike in the number of cases recorded in the area at the end of June.

Some more stringent coronavirus restrictions remain in the city.

Meanwhile one of Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas’s constituents said they were told a testing centre on the Isle of Wight was their nearest port of call.

The Argus:

Ms Lucas is now taking the issue to ministers as she looks to make tests readily available to people in Brighton and Hove.

She said: “Ministers’ promises about a ‘world beating’ testing regime are meaningless, and frankly insulting, to people who are trying to get a test and are either told there are none available or are given the option of a test facility hundreds of miles away.

“I have heard from constituents offered a test centre in the Isle of Wight, a five-hour round trip, or at Fawley – nearly two hours away, and then only if you have a car.

“With students about to return to our universities and the increase in new cases over the past week, it is absolutely vital that people have easy access to a testing centre.”

The coronavirus rate in Brighton and Hove rose to 8.9 for the seven days leading up to August 29, up from 5.8 the week before.

This weekly figure is based on tests carried out in laboratories and in the wider community and is expressed as the number of new cases per 100,000 people.

The Argus:

Ms Lucas said: “The mobile unit at Withdean is a start (to solving the limited access to testing sites) but is due to be there for only a week and has limited capacity.

“There are people in our city who need a regular test, because of on-going medical treatment like chemotherapy.

“The system is not working and ministers need to take responsibility and do something about it, fast.”

A representative for the Department for Health and Social Care told The Argus that testing was available to anyone with coronavirus symptoms and home testing was an alternative option, with demand for testing currently on the rise.

He said: “NHS Test and Trace is working – we are working to increase national testing capacity and hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day.

“There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible.

“To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

The Argus:

“We are expanding testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October as well as bringing in new technology to process tests even faster.”

A new testing site at Tangmere Airfield, near Chichester, opened yesterday and tests can be requested via the government website.

The new facility will provide regional testing capacity for the government’s test and trace scheme, with testing also continuing at the Gatwick regional testing centre, mobile testing units and home delivery kits.