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Coronavirus testing chaos branded ‘entirely unacceptable’ amid fears it may last for weeks

PUBLISHED: 05:30 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:04 16 September 2020

Suffolk's MPs have had their say on the testing problems. From left to right: Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock and Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill Pictures: ARCHANT/HOUSE OF COMMONS/PA WIRE

Suffolk's MPs have had their say on the testing problems. From left to right: Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter, South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock and Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill Pictures: ARCHANT/HOUSE OF COMMONS/PA WIRE

ARCHANT/HOUSE OF COMMONS/PA WIRE

Problems with getting coronavirus tests may last for “weeks”, the health secretary has warned as fellow Suffolk MPs grapple with growing numbers of complaints from constituents.

Dr Dan Poulter, also an NHS doctor, branded the testing situation Dr Dan Poulter, also an NHS doctor, branded the testing situation "unacceptable" Picture: DR DAN POULTER

Demand for tests has soared over the past week, mainly caused by children returning to school, with some people told to travel hundreds of miles.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter, who is also an NHS doctor, said several constituents had been unable to access tests at all. Others were turned away from test centres.

He said: “Clearly there are issues with capacity within the system - this is entirely unacceptable and I have raised these matters directly with ministers at the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Without rapid testing, many families are now facing further uncertainty and periods of self-isolation from work and school.”

Matt Hancock has said the country is at 'tipping point' amid a rise in coronavirus cases Picture: PA/STEFAN ROUSSEAU Stefan RousseauMatt Hancock has said the country is at 'tipping point' amid a rise in coronavirus cases Picture: PA/STEFAN ROUSSEAU Stefan Rousseau

Waveney MP Peter Aldous warned schools would face problems staying open if the testing system did not improve.

He said: “Schools have not been provided with the testing kits that they were promised and some of the advice provided on the information lines has been contradictory and confusing as to whether a test should be sought.

“This situation needs to be resolved very quickly, otherwise schools which have adapted very well to an extremely challenging situation may have difficulty in remaining open.”

Mr Hancock, who is also West Suffolk MP, said tests would start to be prioritised for the sickest and for people in care homes.

Health officials have advised anyone who has coronavirus symptoms to help prevent the spread and protect others by isolating and booking a test. Picture: Sarah Lucy BrownHealth officials have advised anyone who has coronavirus symptoms to help prevent the spread and protect others by isolating and booking a test. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

He admitted there were “operational challenges” but told MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday that the average distance travelled to a test site is now 5.8 miles, down from 6.4 miles last week.

He said 261 tests were taken in the West Suffolk council area on Monday, adding “the vast majority of people who need a test can get a test”.

But the ongoing problems have prompted Ipswich MP Tom Hunt and South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge to raise concerns with the health secretary, with the former sending a letter and the latter meeting him face-to-face. Both said some constituents had been impacted, while Mr Cartlidge said it was important they were “transparent about what’s happening on the ground”.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said she had received fewer than 10 concerns about testing of an overall caseload of 300, and had taken those fears up with the health secretary.

Jo Churchill, health minister and MP for Bury St Edmunds, urged people to only book a test if they are symptomatic. She said she had received a lot of emails regarding the testing issues, but reassured that many constituents had been able to book a test.

“We are working hard to fix any issues that occur in the system to ensure people can easily receive a test at a local site,” she added.


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