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UK’s testing farce: Drive-thru centres are only swabbing ‘four people a day’

Britain’s coronavirus testing farce was laid bare again today with claims that a drive-through centre is only swabbing a handful of people every day – with a week to go to meet the Government’s pledge of swabbing 100,000 people a day. 

The make-shift facility, in the car park of Port Glasgow Health Centre, Inverclyde, was set up on April 9 with ambitions of testing 100 people a week – who are either NHS workers or family members of medics.

A resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ‘It has been very quiet so far. It looks like they are testing about four people a day. We overlook it and have barely noticed anyone using the centre. It is empty most of the time.’ 

The Army and Amazon have both been drafted in to help Number 10 scale up its testing response, with soldiers helping to ferry mobile testing units across the UK and the retail giant is delivering swabs to people’s homes.

Damning official figures show Britain is still miles away from reaching its pledge of carrying out 100,000 swabs each day, with Department of Health statistics showing only 22,000 were conducted yesterday.

Downing Street today claimed that Britain has the capacity to carry out 48,000 tests each day – but admitted less than half of that is being used and that there is still a ‘great deal more to do’ to close the gap.  

The UK lags behind many other comparable nations in testing, with an analysis showing it has swabbed just six people out of every 1,000 – half the rate of the US and four times lower than Italy. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s target was yesterday savaged by MPs as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘stupid’, after pictures of near-empty testing centres in London, Coventry and Brighton laid bare the true scale of the UK’s swabbing shambles. 

Ministers yesterday announced they were expanding the number of drive-through testing sites from 26 to 50. Other key workers will also now be eligible for tests, including transport workers and supermarket staff.

The move came after numerous horror stories of self-isolating and potentially very unwell workers having to travel for multiple hours to get tests only for some of them to be told to come back another day.

Department of Health figures show 22,000 tests were carried out in the UK on Tuesday

A drive-through testing centre in Cardiff is pictured empty this morning

A drive-through testing centre in Cardiff is pictured empty this morning

A soldier collects coronavirus testing samples at a centre in Southport this morning

A soldier collects coronavirus testing samples at a centre in Southport this morning

Neighbours of one drive-through testing centre in Inverclyde, Scotland claimed they only swab around 'four people a day'

Neighbours of one drive-through testing centre in Inverclyde, Scotland claimed they only swab around ‘four people a day’

A spokesman NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘At present the centre is seeing more patients on a daily basis and has the capacity to meet demand.

‘The Port Glasgow drive-through testing centre opened on Thursday April 9 and tests both symptomatic household members and symptomatic staff as per the current NHS GGC policy.

‘Across NHS GGC we are able to test health and social care staff who are self-isolating as they are symptomatic, or, those with a symptomatic household contact.’

The drive-through test centre runs on an appointment-only basis and it operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.

During testing the person remains in the car and provides a swab.

All staff at the centre wear PPE and a pathway has been put in place to control the flow of traffic and ensure the safety of the public and staff. 

Downing Street today said 22,814 coronavirus tests were carried out on 13,522 people up to 9am on Wednesday in England, Scotland and Wales.

But it admitted that capacity is now at 48,273 – meaning Britain is only using up 47 per cent of its supply.

No10 acknowledged there is still a ‘great deal more to do’ to close the gap between capacity and the actual number of tests carried out.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘The number of people we’ve tested has increased in the most recent 24 hours we’ve got figures for.

‘And the gap between the number of people tested and the number of people we’ve tested has closed slightly.

‘But that doesn’t distract from the fact that there’s a great deal more to do if we’re to be able to say we’re making the full use of the capacity we have.

‘Mobile units will visit the care homes and test any residents and staff and separately we’re using Amazon to deliver tests to people’s homes.’

The spokesperson added that around 50 drive-through sites will be ready by end of the month with 28 already open. 

Other flagship NHS testing sites have stood empty this week, with pictures showing few people arriving to give any samples. 

Both Twickenham rugby stadium and Chessington World of Adventures in west London did not appear to have many patients arriving on Monday.  

Coronavirus testing was taking place yesterday in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, pictured

Coronavirus testing was taking place yesterday in the car park of Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey, pictured

The test centre at Twickenham rugby stadium in West London yesterday appeared to be lying empty

The test centre at Twickenham rugby stadium in West London yesterday appeared to be lying empty

The empty coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff and registered care workers at the Ricoh Arena yesterday

The empty coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff and registered care workers at the Ricoh Arena yesterday

The NHS Covid-19 testing centre in Plymouth, Devon, yesterday is empty when photographed yesterday

The NHS Covid-19 testing centre in Plymouth, Devon, yesterday is empty when photographed yesterday

An empty drive-through Covid-19 test centre for NHS workers at Brighton and Hove Albion FC's Amex Stadium yesterday

An empty drive-through Covid-19 test centre for NHS workers at Brighton and Hove Albion FC’s Amex Stadium yesterday

MPS BLAST THE 100,000 TESTS A DAY TARGET AS ‘STUPID’ 

There is rising Tory fury over Matt Hancock’s decision to set such a high bar, with senior figures concerned about the backlash which could follow if he fails to deliver on his promise. 

Some Conservative MPs believe Mr Hancock will have to ‘carry the can’ if he falls short of the target as they said he should have climbed down on the issue more than a week ago.

One senior Tory MP told MailOnline the target is ‘stupid’ and added: ‘Matt was extremely unwise to come up with such a high and round figure and to make a dogmatic commitment rather than an aspiration. 

‘He was under pressure at the time. If he wanted to reverse out of it he should have started reversing a week ago. It is pretty clear that he is not going to hit the target and he ought to be levelling with people.’   

A Number 10 insider echoed a similar sentiment, telling The Telegraph: ‘The problem is with this arbitrary target. There is a faint irrationality behind it, just because there was a clamour for mass testing. 

‘Hancock’s 100,000 target was a response to a criticism in the media and he decided to crank out tests regardless.

‘He’s not had a good crisis. The Prime Minister will say he has confidence in him but it doesn’t feel like that.’

Yesterday it was revealed that trucks will ferry mobile testing units nationwide to screen NHS and social care workers. 

It came amid claims potentially thousands of NHS staff have been unable to get swabbed at the drive-through centres.

The scheme – backed by the military – will transport testing teams to hospitals and care homes across Britain, The Sun reports. 

General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said: ‘We think the innovative idea of pop-ups, rather like mobile libraries, would be a very useful way of going.’ 

Last week it was revealed coronavirus swab kits would start to be delivered to homes by Amazon in a pilot scheme.

The retail giant is sending send swabs to people’s homes and telling them to take a sample from their throats an hour before they are picked up again.

The results of the test will then be sent by text message. It is understood the pilot scheme – for 5,000 self-test kits – will begin with key workers. 

But the Daily Mail reported earlier this week that only 200 of the kits have been sent out so far because of a hold-up by officials. 

It comes after it was revealed last night that only one in four care home staff who fear they have coronavirus have been tested.

Managers say their staff face having to make four-hour round trips to test centres which are only accessible by car when many don’t even drive.

It means workers are being left stuck at home self-isolating unnecessarily but unable to return to the frontline where they are desperately needed. 

ONLY ONE IN FOUR CARE HOME STAFF ARE BEING TESTED FOR COVID-19 

Only one in four care home staff who fear they have coronavirus have been tested, it was revealed last night.

Managers say their staff face having to make four-hour round trips to test centres which are only accessible by car when many don’t even drive.

It means workers are being left stuck at home self-isolating unnecessarily but unable to return to the frontline where they are desperately needed. 

MPs and trade union bosses last night branded the ‘desperately’ low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’.

Last week Mr Hancock said everyone working in social care who needed a test would be able to get one ‘immediately’.

But care workers showing symptoms of COVID-19 must be referred by their employer and then travel to one of the drive-through centres and wait two days for the results.

It means care workers already feeling unwell can face round trips of more than 200 miles to be tested. 

They have also been told they are not allowed to take public transport or taxis to the appointment – leaving those without a car no way of receiving the vital tests.

MPs and trade union bosses last night branded the ‘desperately’ low levels of testing in the care sector ‘appalling’.

Last week Mr Hancock said everyone working in social care who needed a test would be able to get one ‘immediately’.

But care workers showing symptoms of COVID-19 must be referred by their employer and then travel to one of the drive-through centres and wait two days for the results.

It means care workers already feeling unwell can face round trips of more than 200 miles to be tested. 

They have also been told they are not allowed to take public transport or taxis to the appointment – leaving those without a car no way of receiving the vital tests.

Data collected by the National Care Forum (NCF), which represents nonprofit providers, suggests just 25 per cent of care home staff needing tests have had them.

The NCF collected data from 21 members which together employ almost 16,000 care staff.

Of the 632 residential care staff needing tests only 164 had been tested, while just 19 of the 281 home carers had received a coronavirus test.

Four Seasons Health Care, one of Britain’s biggest private care providers, said many of its employees can’t get to test centres as they don’t drive.

Yesterday the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said three new testing laboratories are now complete.

The Lighthouse Labs in Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire will be able to test tens of thousands of samples each day. 

Liz Kendall, Shadow Minister for Social Care, last night described the lack of testing system as ‘madness’.

‘There are desperately low levels of testing when we know it’s essential to save the lives of the most vulnerable,’ she said.

‘We’ve heard of appalling cases where care workers in Norfolk have been told to go to Sheffield and those in Peterborough to Stansted Airport.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earlier set a much more ambitious testing target of 250,000 tests-a-day during a briefing on Mach 19.

But he did not attach a date to when that would be achieved. Official documents by the Department of Health say the target is 25,000 per day.

Britain, with 130,000 confirmed cases of the disease, is testing 6.11 people per 1,000 – 0.5 per cent of its population – according to the latest figures.

The UK sits well below nations with similar rates of infection, such as Italy, Germany and Spain.

All of Britain’s European neighbours are testing more than 20 people per thousand, according to statistics compiled by Oxford-led researchers.

Early testing for COVID-19 is seen by the World Health Organization (WHO) as crucial to bringing the pandemic under control.  

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