Urgent action needed to fix coronavirus testing chaos

Since last week, lots of local residents have contacted me because they or a member of their household have potential Covid symptoms, but when they try to follow the Government’s advice and book a test they’re either being sent somewhere miles away or told that there are none available whatsoever.

This is really worrying – particularly for people in our local area, where we remain under increased restrictions because of a high number of cases in Greater Manchester.

Widespread testing and tracing is critical to containing the virus as lockdown measures are eased, but it’s been clear for a while that the system is not as effective as it needs to be. This problem seems to have got much more difficult over the last week.

After spending weeks advising the public to get tested if they were in any doubt about their symptoms, the Health Secretary is now blaming the recent chaos on increased demand and blockages in NHS lab capacity.

In preparation for people returning to schools, universities and workplaces, the Government should have spent the summer significantly expanding NHS lab capacity and fixing the contact tracing system. Instead, we’ve now got parents forced to keep their children home from school long after they’ve recovered from a temperature because they can’t get tested. We also see health staff and other key workers self-isolating and unable to do their jobs for days on end, and people worried about their health faced with the prospect of a 4-hour round trip just to get tested – or unable to get tested at all.

The Health Secretary is still claiming that our testing system is a huge success. We need him to accept that there’s a problem and take immediate steps to increase testing capacity. Labour is urging the Government to get us to a place where anyone who is showing symptoms can access a test that suits their location and needs.

I am grateful to those constituents who have contacted me to tell me about their problems with Covid testing. Labour’s Shadow Health team are building up a national picture of the problems with the system, and I’m working with them to hold the Government to account.

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