Hundreds queue for swabs in London but get turned away… while centres sit EMPTY elsewhere


Hundreds of people who queued for Covid swabs at a south London testing centre yesterday were turned away after not being sent important QR codes, while other testing centres across the country have been practically deserted this week.

People were unable to get a coronavirus test at the site in Catford, southeast London, yesterday because they were not in possession of a QR code.

A technical error led to people who had booked appointments being refused a swab as they were not sent a confirmation email containing a barcode which needed to be scanned to verify their bookings.

People were left furious when they were turned away after queueing in heavy traffic to attend the drive-in centre.

The chaos comes as amid a nationwide testing fiasco, with other Covid sites being pictured completely deserted following the Government admitting that there is not enough capacity in the testing system. 

Covid testing facilities in Leeds, Oxfordshire and at Heathrow and Manchester airport were empty on Friday while other centres, including Catford, remain overrun with patients this week. 

The nationwide Covid testing fiasco continues to rage on:

  • Nine in ten hotspots recorded no new cases on September 15 and September 16 as laboratories dealt with the backlog;
  • Concerns about the Government’s ‘Lighthouse Labs’ ability to produce results due to staff and equipment shortages; 
  • Test and trace workers are taking two weeks to contact friends, relatives and contacts of those who test positive; 
  • Ministers have defended the shambolic testing system as thousands of people struggle to get checked for the disease, after Dido Harding claimed no-one expected the scale of demand as schools returned; 
  • Baroness Harding claimed ‘no one saw’ sudden spike in test demand coming despite return of schools; 
  • Lancashire is set for tighter lockdown rules, with a curfew set to go in place, but exemptions for Blackpool;
  • Matt Hancock told the Today programme hospital admissions in the UK are doubling every eight days

Hundreds were not able to get a coronavirus test at a drive-in testing centre in Catford, southeast London, yesterday due to a technical error which led to people not being sent QR codes to confirm their appointments

Cars were gridlocked as masses of people hoping for a Covid test waited to enter the centre (above), with the queues causing tailbacks and delays on the South Circular

Cars were gridlocked as masses of people hoping for a Covid test waited to enter the centre (above), with the queues causing tailbacks and delays on the South Circular

A technical error led to people who had booked appointments being refused a swab as they were not sent a confirmation email containing a barcode which needed to be scanned to verify their bookings

A technical error led to people who had booked appointments being refused a swab as they were not sent a confirmation email containing a barcode which needed to be scanned to verify their bookings

Staff of the NHS Test and Trace programme talks to people who arrived for an appointment at the Catford drive-in centre but were still unable to get a test

Staff of the NHS Test and Trace programme talks to people who arrived for an appointment at the Catford drive-in centre but were still unable to get a test

Cars were gridlocked as masses of people hoping for a Covid test waited to enter the Catford centre on Thursday, with the queues causing tailbacks and delays on the South Circular.  

The testing site closed down its operation but members of the public continued to arrive by car and on foot amid the chaos.

Charlotte, a 32-year-old primary school teacher from Bromley, told News Shopper she witnessed ‘every single car being refused’ for the same reason during the hour she spent on the Catford site trying to rebook her test.

She said: ‘Some people where behaving extremely unacceptably towards the staff, shouting at and threatening them.

‘The whole experience was very unsafe.

‘Many people – who come for a test and therefore were clearly suspected carriers – were taking their masks off to hurl abuse at the staff, or while they were talking to 119 on the phone.’

Charlotte and her ten-year-old son had both developed coronavirus symptoms but she claimed she was unable to rebook a test because she was told none were available. 

Nearby roads were seen completely gridlocked amid the chaos, causing delays on the South Circular.

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing, tweeted: ‘Massive gridlock in Catford.

‘Turns out a drive through Covid testing centre has been opened here. All roads inc south circular totally gridlocked.

‘And after all that nobody is getting tested because none of them have received a QR code. Shambles doesn’t even begin to describe it.’  

G4S, which runs the Catford testing site, said that they are not responsible for the booking system or QR codes, which are issued by the Government’s online booking system. 

A testing centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, has reportedly had similar technical issues to the Catford site over the last few days, leaving the centre completely deserted. 

The chaos comes as amid a nationwide testing fiasco, with the Catford site overrun (above) as other sites are deserted following the Government admitting that there is not enough capacity in the testing system

The chaos comes as amid a nationwide testing fiasco, with the Catford site overrun (above) as other sites are deserted following the Government admitting that there is not enough capacity in the testing system

The testing site closed down its operation but members of the public continued to arrive by car and on foot amid the chaos

The testing site closed down its operation but members of the public continued to arrive by car and on foot amid the chaos

Nearby roads were seen completely gridlocked amid the chaos, causing delays on the South Circular. Above, queuing cars at the drive through centre in Lewisham

Nearby roads were seen completely gridlocked amid the chaos, causing delays on the South Circular. Above, queuing cars at the drive through centre in Lewisham

Baroness Dido Harding, who leads the test and trace system, admitted yesterday that the demand for Covid swabs is up to four times capacity

Baroness Dido Harding, who leads the test and trace system, admitted yesterday that the demand for Covid swabs is up to four times capacity

Staff at the Covid testing site at Oxford Parkway reportedly said that there has been an error in the system, meaning the OX postcode is unable to generate the required QR codes.

The site was pictured completely deserted this morning following the reported issues, with patients being supposedly being given appointments as far away as Edinburgh instead. 

The testing chaos comes as other Covid testing centres across the country have been empty while others are overrun with people desperate for a swab.

A testing centre in Leeds was pictured completely deserted on Wednesday as the Government announced that Covid swabs will have to be rationed due to test shortages.

An airport testing facility in Manchester was seen practically empty on Friday with few cars arriving at the drive-in centre, despite their being numerous empty stations available.  

A Twickenham MP has also said that her south-west London constituents had been told to travel to Aberdeen to book a test.

Munira Wilson, Lib Dem health spokesman, said: ‘We were promised a world-beating test and trace system but what we have at the moment is an utter shambles.’

Ministers first faced a crisis over testing early on in the first wave of Covid when a campaign by the Mail led to Mr Hancock vowing to deliver 100,000 tests a day.

That pledge was later raised to 200,000, then 500,000 by the end of October and now four million by next February under the ambitious ‘Operation Moonshot’.

However, the system has been thrown back into chaos in recent days because demand for tests has massively increased, overwhelming laboratories.

Matt Hancock admitted earlier this week that testing would have to be rationed during the nationwide testing fiasco as fears of a second coronavirus wave rise.

A testing centre in Leeds was pictured completely deserted on Wednesday as other centres have been overrun with patients

A testing centre in Leeds was pictured completely deserted on Wednesday as other centres have been overrun with patients

A Covid testing centre at Oxford parkway in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, has reportedly been empty over the last few days due to a technical error in the system

A Covid testing centre at Oxford parkway in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, has reportedly been empty over the last few days due to a technical error in the system

Testing chaos comes as the Government has admitted that there are shortages in testing, with a suggestion of rationing from the Health Secretary. Above, signs direct people to an east London testing centre

Testing chaos comes as the Government has admitted that there are shortages in testing, with a suggestion of rationing from the Health Secretary. Above, signs direct people to an east London testing centre

One car was seen arriving at Manchester airport testing facility on Friday, while other people are forced to face massive queues at other Covid centres across the country

One car was seen arriving at Manchester airport testing facility on Friday, while other people are forced to face massive queues at other Covid centres across the country

The Health Secretary announced that Covid tests could be rationed with a ‘priority list’ to make sure that environments such as care homes and hospitals would have enough tests.

Mr Hancock was also forced to admit in Commons that the current critical shortages could drag on for weeks, after the public had previously been told to seek tests ‘if in doubt’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also admitted that there is not enough capacity in the testing system after demand ‘massively accelerated’ in recent weeks.

He has urged people to follow the new ‘rule of six’ as he warned that actions to stop a second surge of coronavirus must be ‘tough now’ in order to ‘protect’ Christmas.

A leading scientist has also warned today that Covid testing ‘is dying on its a**e’, as he said he was ‘appalled by what I saw’ at the Government’s testing labs. 

Concerns have been raised about the Government’s seven ‘Lighthouse Labs’ and their ability to process results, due to shortages of staff and equipment. 

Genomics scientist and inventor Phil Robinson told The Times that the Lighthouse Labs were poorly managed, running out of staff and failed to set up automatic processes before a second wave of infections. 

He told the paper: ‘Every part of the process was poor. The other ludicrous issue they have is they have 20 different types of tube coming into the lab. When you are running a high throughput lab it’s only sensible to have one. Why they haven’t standardised that I have no idea.’

The nationwide testing fiasco continues as 10million people are told to follow new lockdown rules as Lancashire is placed under curfew alongside the North East

The nationwide testing fiasco continues as 10million people are told to follow new lockdown rules as Lancashire is placed under curfew alongside the North East

G4S, which runs the Catford testing site, said that they are not responsible for the booking system or QR codes, which are issued by the Government's online booking system. Pictured: signs for Covid testing in east London on Friday

G4S, which runs the Catford testing site, said that they are not responsible for the booking system or QR codes, which are issued by the Government’s online booking system. Pictured: signs for Covid testing in east London on Friday

A testing facility at Manchester airport was pictured practically deserted on Friday, with very few cars arriving despite many empty drive-in testing stations seeming to be empty

A testing facility at Manchester airport was pictured practically deserted on Friday, with very few cars arriving despite many empty drive-in testing stations seeming to be empty

Charlotte, a 32-year-old primary school teacher from Bromley, said she witnessed 'every single car being refused' for the same reason during the hour she spent on the Catford site trying to rebook her test

Charlotte, a 32-year-old primary school teacher from Bromley, said she witnessed ‘every single car being refused’ for the same reason during the hour she spent on the Catford site trying to rebook her test

Baroness Dido Harding, who leads the test and trace system, also admitted yesterday that demand for swabs is up to four times capacity. 

But she declared that the sudden rise, which follows children returning to school and parents going back to the office, had not been predicted – despite repeated warnings.

Concerns have been echoed by Nicola Sturgeon, who yesterday said she still has concerns about the amount of time being taken to process coronavirus tests at UK Government laboratories. 

And NHS Providers, which represents NHS trust leaders, argued that the country was ‘a long way off where we need to be with testing’.

On Thursday, the Government announced that it was launching two new ‘Lighthouse’ testing labs in Newcastle and Bracknell.

Accompanying new sites in Newport and Charnwood, the four labs promise to increase capacity to deliver 500,000 tests per day by the end of October, DHSC said. 

Plans have also been released for a Lighthouse laboratory dealing with testing and a Covid-19 research hub, which could create 1,100 jobs in the North East of England. 

The new facility would serve the region, as well as northern Cumbria and Yorkshire, and would be the latest expansion of the Government’s national Test and Trace programme.

The Lighthouse lab will be based in Gateshead with a specialist innovation lab at the Helix site in Newcastle, focused on developing new approaches to coronavirus science.

The project will be a partnership between Newcastle City Council and the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, as well as public health teams, local universities and industry.

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing, tweeted about the chaos at Catford, saying that the South Circular was 'gridlocked' due to the massive queues

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing, tweeted about the chaos at Catford, saying that the South Circular was ‘gridlocked’ due to the massive queues

A leading scientist has also warned today that Covid testing 'is dying on its a**e', as he said he was 'appalled by what I saw' at the Government's testing labs

A leading scientist has also warned today that Covid testing ‘is dying on its a**e’, as he said he was ‘appalled by what I saw’ at the Government’s testing labs

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also admitted that there is not enough capacity in the testing system after demand 'massively accelerated' in recent weeks

 Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also admitted that there is not enough capacity in the testing system after demand ‘massively accelerated’ in recent weeks

Deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said trust leaders were ‘increasingly concerned’ that testing shortages could put pressure on NHS services and winter preparations due to growing staff absences.

‘Trust leaders are concerned that they do not have the detail on why there are shortages, how widespread they are or how long they will last,’ she added.

The nationwide testing fiasco continues as 10million people are told to follow new lockdown rules as Lancashire is placed under curfew alongside the North East. 

The Government’s chief science and medical officers have warned that another serious outbreak of coronavirus could lead to a significant number of deaths by the end of next month.

Although there has been no final decision on new measures, the BBC said it could involve the closure of key hospitality businesses for a fortnight.

Schools and most workplaces would stay open, but pubs and restaurants could have their opening hours restricted.

The idea of conducting the lockdown over the half-term holidays has also been mooted. 

MailOnline has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment about the Catford testing centre.

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