'Shambles' Covid testing centres are besieged by the worried well

Londoners are told to pretend they are from Aberdeen to ‘game’ the coronavirus testing system – and anger grows at ‘shambles’

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged the public to not ‘game the system’
  • A glitch meant entering an Aberdeen postcode would get a test in Twickenham
  •  Mr Hancock has told the House of Commons there are ‘operational challenges’

Britons seeking a coronavirus swab in Twickenham have been told to pretend they’re from Aberdeen in order to jump the queue – amid growing anger over the Government’s testing ‘shambles’. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has urged the public to not ‘game the system’ by changing their postcodes when requesting a test. 

But a glitch, revealed by staff, meant that entering a postcode 400 miles away would help Britons book a spot in Twickenham stadium – while those who entered their real addresses were told to travel to sites much farther away. 

Mr Hancock has told the House of Commons there are ‘operational challenges’ with testing which the Government is ‘working hard’ to fix. 

Liberal Democrat Munira Wilson said she has been ‘inundated’ with emails from doctors, teachers and parents unable to access tests in Twickenham.

She said: ‘A number of them have also been advised that if they put an Aberdeen postcode into the system, they can get a test in Twickenham and they have succeeded.

‘So could the Secretary of State please tell me how on earth a world-beating test and trace system is functioning in this way, and what is he doing to fix it?

‘And in the meantime, does he recommend that I tell those constituents who desperately need a test to game the system in this way?’

NHS swab testing centre at Twickenham and Chessington in Surrey

People queue for a coronavirus test outside a community centre following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Bury, September 15

Mr Hancock replied ‘no’ and said MPs should tell their constituents that tests are ‘available in large numbers’, adding: ‘People should take this seriously and not game the system.’

Coronavirus testing infrastructure is being besieged by the worried well, with large queues building outside centres in England.

Long lines were pictured at sites in Southend, Bury, Birmingham and Manchester today as Health Secretary Matt Hancock faced questions over the system – which has left doctors, nurses, care home residents and teachers all unable to get checked.

Internal test and trace research by the Department for Health estimates that roughly 25 per cent of all those booking a test do not meet the requirements to do so. 

A test centre has been set up in a car park at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium with cars driving in every few minutes. 

A woman uses an umbrella to shelter from the sun as she waits for a coronavirus test outside a community centre in Bury, Britain, September 15

Mother-of-two Melissa Wood, 41, said: ‘My partner thinks he’s got it so I thought I’d better get one. 

‘I think too many people are having a test when they don’t need one.’

Businessman Mark Bowen, 43, booked one days ago as a workmate had symptoms.


Anyone can get a coronavirus test, whatever their age, but the Government insists only those with symptoms should apply for them.

Symptoms include: a fever, a new continuous cough, or a loss of smell or taste.    

Care home staff and residents should now be getting tests regularly, whether they show symptoms or not. 

Some hospital staff get tested routinely, but this is not explicitly recommended by national guidelines.

If you don’t have symptoms, 

The government says those without symptoms should not apply for a test – unless they live in an area under local lockdown.

Those prioritised for testing in England include all NHS social care staff, such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff, including community pharmacists and their staff, volunteers and unpaid carers.

Staff at essential public services staff, including those working for prisons, probation, courts, charities, and religious staff are also prioritised.

Those working in public safety and national security sectors, such as police and Ministry of Defence civilians, contractors and armed forces personnel are listed by the Government as priorities as well.

Employers can refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating because either they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms.

In England, all registered adult care homes can apply for coronavirus tests.

‘My wife tried to book one yesterday and she was offered a test in Belfast,’ he said. ‘She’s hardly going to nip on a plane or ferry to get a test.

‘It’s a joke. The government needs to get a grip before we have a second wave ‘

One plumber, who had a test in Bolton, said: ‘I’ve tried to get a test for days.

‘At first the only place they offered me was Doncaster which is miles away.

‘But I managed to get one here.

‘A lot of people have given up trying to get one in Bolton as they know everywhere booked up as we’re a hotspot.

‘It’s a shambles.’

Key workers have revealed their frustration at being turned away from London’s only walk-in coronavirus testing centre.

A primary school worker and a construction engineer said they could not understand why they could not undergo the five-minute examination at the East London Covid-19 testing centre.

And parents revealed how they had been offered a test 175-miles away from their London home in Bolton, while living just minutes away from the walk-in clinic in East Ham.

Primary school counsellor Melanie Bailey revealed that she had been forced stop work and keep her son off school after he developed a number of covid symptoms.

Ms Bailey, 49, from East Ham, told MailOnline: ‘My son Adam has covid symptoms and I just want to get a test so I know I need to do.

‘He’s had an upset stomach, aching limbs, a sore throat and he has started to develop a cough.

‘I can’t go to work if he has covid as I could take it into the school. Adam can’t go to school if he has covid as he will infect others.

‘But I can’t get a test to find out if he has it or not.

‘I’ve been on the government website countless times but it just says there are ‘no test sites available’.

‘I took him to the hospital and they gave me a letter saying that Adam had to have a test.

‘But they won’t let us in.

‘It’s completely wrong because there is no one in there. The place is empty.’

Parents Steph Le Couteur and Ephraim Mwakandu told how they were offered a test for their two-year-old daughter Aurelia 175 miles away in Bolton, despite living just around the corner from the East Ham walk-in test centre.

Steph, 33, told MailOnline: ‘Our daughter has a cough and they won’t accept her at nursery unless she has a test to prove she does not have covid.

‘We’ve been trying to get a test for days. I don’t know how many times I’ve been on the government website.

‘I did get accepted at one test centre but it was in Bolton – that’s ridiculous. We only live around the corner from this test centre in East Ham.

‘We can’t work or visit friends and relatives until we are sure that Aurelia does not have the virus.

‘It would take five minutes to find out but they won’t let us. But there’s no one there!’

Construction engineer Paul Campbell told how of his frustration at having to take time off work as he cannot get a test.

The 33-year-old from Romford, Essex, told MailOnline: ‘I’ve got a mild cough. It’s not terrible and I don’t feel too bad but I want to the right thing and not spread the disease.

‘But I can’t get a test to find out if I have it or not.

‘I’ve tried the website so many times but I can’t get an appointment. I finally got through on the phone they said you can only book a test on the government website.

A long queue outside a testing site in Gorton, Manchester 

‘It’s completely wrong. There’s no one at the testing centre. They’re not doing anything.’

Patients who believe they have coronavirus symptoms can only get a Covid-19 test by requesting an appointment at a government testing centre.

Applicants must register their details, including their address, and are then supposed to be offered appointment times at testing centre nearby.

However the government website is not working and no appointments are available.

A message reads: ‘This service is currently very busy.

‘More tests should be available later.

‘If you cannot book an appointment now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.’

It continues: ‘Do not call the helpline – you will not be able to get a test this way.’    

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