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Covid testing shambles comes to Church Street as centre axed

Chaotic hunt for swab kits affecting schools and hospitals

19 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi: ‘Get on top of this.’ 

A COVID-19 test centre due to open up in the worst-hit area of Westminster was pulled at the last minute in the latest example of the government’s shambles.

Community groups, councillors, and residents had been informed that the Church Street Mobile Testing unit would be open for two days from yesterday (Thursday).

London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, who lives in the area and was considering getting a test, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that this was announced and then almost immediately withdrawn from the Church Street locality, the area hardest hit with Covid-19 fatalities in Westminster.

“The World Health Organisation told us it’s all about test, test, test. And with a second wave coming this does not bode well at all. This experience appears in keeping with the national picture and the government needs to get on top of this immediately for the sake of everyone.”

The testing fiasco is having a far-reaching impact, with children missing school, patients cancelling hospital appointments, and workers having to isolate unnecessarily.

Residents have told how they were been sent on “wild goose chases” by the government’s official 119 number to testing centres that do not exist. The Extra has also seen a secret spread-sheet that gives details of testing centres across London, including in Westminster, which do not always show up on Google or appear to be on the government’s database.

A centre in North Carriage Drive, Hyde Park, was operating on Thursday and Friday last week at a time when Westminster residents had been told to travel 200 miles outside of London to find a test.

On the last-minute Church Street cancellation, a circular from council officials went out on Wednesday saying it would “no longer be going ahead” and the “council is working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care to explore other options”, adding: “We apologise for the last-minute change of information.”

The DHSC admitted that the test and trace system had seen “significant demand”. But it insisted that capacity was the “highest it has ever been”, and added: “New booking slots and home-testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.”

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