Our government launched a “test, track and trace” trial in the Isle of Wight this week…. so we are protected if the virus starts spreading again once lockdown ends. But it would be nice if they got the “testing” sorted first.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said on Tuesday that more testing was needed much earlier – but it still seems a bit of a shambles. My eldest daughter wanted to be tested last weekend – and ended up not getting tested – despite a 4 hour round trip, plus 30 minutes wait at the site.
She did get a test a couple of days later though – at a centre much closer to home – 30 minutes away this time, not two hours drive – and the staff there were hunting for people to test.
She wanted a test because her flat mate was ill and worried about whether she had the virus. And her flat mate does not have a car (both are teachers) and the government website did not offer the “test in the post” option at that point.
Four hours – there and back
The test sites then on offer (they live in Hertfordshire, just north of the M25) were in Twickenham, Oxford and the New Forest – so they opted for Oxford, which proved to actually be Chipping Norton, nearly on the Gloucestershire boundary – and some way away from Oxford.
The website said they would be recognised by their car registration number, but the army staff at the centre wanted a QR code which they did not have – and, anyway, the army guy said their computer system had crashed – so they could not check them out.
They re-booked that evening and were offered Wembley, took photos of the QR code as a precaution, arrived early, and found that site had a full list with names and addresses. Photo ID was necessary too, but no checks were made at all on their claim to be key workers.
Doctors and nurses complained
Two weeks ago I searched NHS and government sites for a list of these testing centres, and could not find one – though press reports of centres being opened enabled me to do a partial list. I did it because Rye News had received press releases from both doctors and nurse representatives (the British Medical Association, and the Royal College of Nursing) complaining about the testing arrangements.
Since then ministers have talked about 27,310 tests and 40 testing centres being open, though one spokesman corrected himself “I think that’s the figure after this weekend”, and frankly the overall position still seems, in my daughter’s word, “shambolic”.
So I do not have much faith yet in “test, track and trace” when the government is still not getting to grips with “testing”, particularly in care homes, and when so much of the testing seems to depend on most of those affected all having cars – let alone smartphones for the “track and trace” part of the exercise.
Last week we reported from Rye’s food bank on how parents were having problems getting food vouchers, which are replacing free school meals, because they needed a computer to claim them – and “test, track and trace” seems to be yet another government system based on dubious assumptions.
On Wednesday May 6 Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government aimed to hit 200,000 tests a day by the end of May. But the NHS Confederation pointed out that “capacity and access are not the same thing” and “more tests will be meaningless” if those who need them can not get them “especially if they work on the front line”]