September 30, 2020
A Somerset woman told the only Covid-19 test available for her son was in Northern Ireland or Aberdeen has branded the system “an absolute joke” after later finding plenty were available at her deserted local centre.
Somerset Mum Told Only Covid-19 Test Was In Northern Ireland Or Aberdeen
Claudia and Aled Waddams were left scrambling to find a test for their son Iolo, 10, after he was sent home by the school nurse with symptoms of Coronavirus last Monday lunchtime. 
Teachers told the family he could not return until he was tested and that they should look on the government’s website for what checks were available nearby. 
Both parents and staff quickly searched, only to be told Iolo’s only options were a “mobile unit” in Northern Ireland’s County Antrim, or a drive-in at Aberdeen Airport, in Scotland. 
A trip to either site would have meant a journey of more than 10 hours – and therefore two days – long.   “The online system is really complicated so you can’t choose where you can get a test,” hotelier Claudia, 42, told HuffPost UK. “The two places we were offered County Antrim and Aberdeenshire. 
“My husband took a screenshot as proof because it sounds like it is exaggerated.” 
She added the options were “laughable” and she was “just in despair”, saying: “We would have had to get on a plane or a ferry to get to Northern Ireland. I would have asked my husband to go with me. It would have taken us days.”  
Refusing to accept a two-day journey, the family travelled to a testing centre they knew about at nearby Taunton Racecourse. 
Around 20 or 30 staff were there “sitting under umbrellas” in the sun she said, but otherwise the makeshift testing centre was completely empty. 
Claudia said staff acknowledged there were tests, but that without a QR code, they would not give Iolo a check. 
“In the hour that we were there not one person came through the test centre,” she said. 
“We were absolutely flabbergasted.  
“It’s insane. We were told they simply would not test us. We went through bay one, two, three, four, and they were all empty.”
Claudia said she remained “quite persistent”, parked the car and waited for help.
But she said staff instead attempted to get her to leave. 
The family were told to call NHS 119, the government’s test call centre, for a QR code but they would “on hold for a minimum of four to six hours”. 
“He also said if you come last week we could have tested you but they have changed the guidelines and now we can’t test you,” she said. 
“What could I do? I can’t send my child back to school if I don’t have a test. I can’t get to Northern Ireland. I can’t go to Aberdeen. What are you telling me to do? I was told to go home and wait for slots to be released.” Claudia repeatedly made her case and said that staff eventually relented, generating a code on-site and passing her a kit so she could swab her son and put the test-tube in a safe lockbox. 
“We begged them for at least an hour to do the test,” she said. “I told them my son needed a test to go to school.
“They could issue QR code there and then if they wanted to, it turned out.
“So they had the capacity to test whoever they wanted. It literally took two seconds. 
“We were supposed to get our test results within 24 hours, we got them within 78 hours. 
“It was just a mindless, ridiculous farce. It was an absolute joke.
“They could have been testing 1,000 people at that centre and we arrived at 4pm on a Monday afternoon and there was not one other person there.”
The test results arrived on Friday. Iolo was negative and could return to school. 
Claudia is particularly angry at Commons leader, and North East Somerset MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, who said opponents should stop “carping on” about being unable to get tests.  She said: “Jacob Rees Mogg, for him to stand up in the House of Commons and say ‘stop your carping’, I just get more and more enraged. It is so negligent. It infuriates me.
“The government had six months from March until now to sort out testing centres. They knew it would be worse in winter. And yet they can’t get a testing centre functioning - for the whole of Somerset.” 
Claudia said others in her area were forced to travel to Cardiff and others had looked at booking a test privately, at a significant cost. 
“People can’t really afford to do that. It costs £100 a go. It is utterly shameful. This is going to happen until we get a vaccine and there is herd immunity. We need a proper testing system.” 
She added that while she and her family were in good health, others may have been hit harder.
She said: “A lot of people are very scared who are very vulnerable and need to know if their grandparents have it, eg, and it is completely unacceptable and sad.
“Britain has a long history of being this amazing power and it feels like we are pathetic and can’t do anything anymore.” 
Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, meanwhile, said ministers should say sorry to the family.
She said: “To expect a young family in Somerset to travel to Northern Ireland or Scotland for a Covid-19 test shows how badly the Government’s testing fiasco continues to let the country down. Most people just want to do the right thing - but are left battling a flawed privatised system in England which does not put people first. 
“As well as risking rising infections, the Ggovernment’s failure to get a grip of testing is particularly stressful for all of those juggling caring responsibilities with their jobs. Quite frankly, ministers owe a sincere apology to this family and others affected by their chronic incompetence.”Related... Most Firefighters Struggled To Access PPE At Height Of Covid Crisis, Union Says Asking Boris Johnson To Explain His Own Coronavirus Rules Is 'Gotcha' Journalism, Says Minister
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