London's Covid testing fiasco: Helpline says nearest place is BRADFORD

London’s Covid testing fiasco: Phone operators tell callers there are NO home test kits or drive-thru slots and nearest place to get tested is 200 miles away in BRADFORD (despite centres sitting empty in capital)

  • One caller was told there was nothing available in London to drive-thru or post
  • But when she went to Twickenham just in case, was waved through for test
  • Another Londoner was told her nearest available test was in Bradford
  • Department of Health and Social Care insist track and trace was working
  • But it admitted it did target resources in areas that needed tests the most 

Health chiefs were tonight forced to defend their coronavirus test programme – after claims helpline phone operators said London’s empty centres had none and Bradford was the nearest available.

Callers to the 119 service told MailOnline over the past week were stunned to be told no drive-through spots were available or postal swabs.

One claimed she was told the nearest available test was in Bradford in West Yorkshire, some 200 miles away from the capital.

The Department of Health and Social Care tonight insisted its Test and Trace programme was working and claimed it was testing ‘hundreds of thousands of people’ every day.

But it would not say how many had been tested in London, only that ‘To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most’.

Twickenham’s testing centre was empty despite callers being told no tests were available

At Greenwich there were very few visitors throughout the whole of Tuesday

Heathrow’s testing facitlity had a few cars come through but did not seem to be used fully

A MailOnline investigation discovered the testing centres in Twickenham, Heathrow and Greenwich were practically empty despite callers being told none were unavailable. 

It came after a number of people in the capital needing swabs came forward to complain they had been told none could be taken in the city.

One, who landed back in the UK on Saturday, was told she had to call 119 to organise a test after her friend tested positive.

A number of Twitter users expressed frustration at the lack of text availability in London

She said: ‘I was told there were no tests in the whole of London and to call back at 8pm.

‘The same thing happened when I called back at 8pm – they told me the closest test I could get was 80 miles away, despite living in the capital city.

‘I ended up calling four times and trying to get an appointment and was told the same thing each time. 

The Government released figures today showing 186,500 tests had been carried out today 

The latest numbers showed that a further 1,295 people have now tested positive for the virus


NHS Test and Trace was still failing to track down up to half of Covid-19 patients’ contacts in areas most at risk of local lockdowns, it was claimed back in July.

In Luton, which had the fifth highest infection rate in England, just 47 per cent of potentially-infected people were contacted by the system since its launch on May 28, according to analysis by The Guardian.

Only 65 per cent of close contacts in Leicester – which had to retreat back into lockdown in June after a spike in cases – were tracked down by tracers.

It meant 3,340 people who may have had the disease in the city slipped under the radar and could have spread it further through the population.   

Language barriers may partly explain the low success rates in some of the worst-hit areas, where the virus is disproportionately affecting people of south Asian heritage.

In Luton, for example, 20 per cent of the population do not speak English as their first language, along with 27.5 per cent in Leicester, which has the highest rate in the country. In Blackburn it is 13.4 per cent, according to Statista.  

Other potential explanations include a distrust of unknown callers, missed emails or people outright refusing to hand over contact details.  

Local councilors and public health officials are now demanding more control over the test and trace process

‘Three out of the four times I was told they didn’t even have any home testing kits to send me. 

‘I ended up hiring a car and just turning up to the Twickenham testing centre to see if I could chance it.

‘It was completely empty and despite being told four times that I couldn’t get a test, I was tested straight away without an appointment or a wait.’ 

The story was the same with others complaining they were unable to get a test after ringing the helpline.

Joanna North wrote online: ‘I tried to get a test in London last week.

‘No postal tests available and nearest testing availability was Bradford.’

Dan Allison added today: ‘Just called the coronavirus 119 number to book a test for my wife.

‘Apparently no test available to send or walk ins. Nothing for London? Is this a joke?’

Today’s Coronavirus figures showed 186,500 tests were carried out in the UK today, out of a capacity of 349,159.

So far 41,504 people have been killed here but officials have insisted they are scaling up testing, prioritising outbreak areas.

But for home testing officials said they did occasionally pause booking for short periods to help smooth out demand.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “NHS Test and Trace is working – we are working to increase national testing capacity and hundreds of thousands of people are being tested every day.

“There is a high demand for tests and our laboratories continue to turn test results around as quickly as possible. To make sure we stay in control of this virus we are targeting our testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, as well as prioritising at-risk groups.

“We are expanding testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October – as well as bringing in new technology to process tests even faster.”

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