Greenwich residents told to travel to rural Wales for nearest Covid test

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

A South-east London council leader has branded the Government’s coronavirus testing programme a “total shambles” which could descend into a “state of chaos”, with local residents requiring tests directed to centres as far away as Leicester and Cardiff.

Greenwich leader Dan Thorpe made the comments after being contacted by multiple residents who said the Government’s online test booking system directed them to Covid-19 testing sites more than 100 miles from London.

Residents looking to book tests using their Greenwich borough postcodes have been directed to locations including Leicester (94.2 miles away), Cardiff (142 miles), and even sites in rural Wales such as Abercynon (148 miles).

No slots remain for the foreseeable future at the Greenwich O2, which has been a steady testing presence in the south east since April.

It mirrors a situation unfolding across the UK, with reports that Government labs are “maxed out” due to a rise in people undertaking testing in recent weeks.

“We seem to have descended into another state of chaos,” Cllr Thorpe said on Thursday.

“It is absolutely shocking…all of a sudden testing capacity has disappeared.”

He added the “total shambles” unfolding could “result in deaths this winter” if accurate widespread testing wasn’t ramped up again.

Greenwich was one of the councils which earlier this year brought its testing of aged-care homes in-house, assuring that weekly testing of staff and residents in the borough would continue.

Cllr Thorpe said it was particularly disappointing that testing capacity had dropped at a time when “councils and residents are working flat-out to get schools up and running”.

Earlier in the day health secretary Matt Hancock defended the Government’s testing programme on BBC Breakfast.

“Of course, there are operational challenges in any system,” he said.

He added: “In the last six months we have built this enormous (testing) system we have now”.

Mr Hancock said the “vast majority” of people were still able to get their tests done close to their homes.

“If you have symptoms, you should go and get a test – and the vast majority of tests are available at the testing centre closest to you,” he said.

Pictured top: One Greenwich resident was told his nearest test centre was in Abercynon in rural Wales


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