Large queues at surge testing centre in south Gloucestershire

Claire Hayhurst, PA
·3-min read

There were large queues at a Covid-19 surge testing centre in south Gloucestershire, with some people on foot waiting for up to 45 minutes in the cold.

The centre, at Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emersons Green, is one of three providing additional community testing following the identification of a mutated variant in the area.

People living in 24 postcodes across Bristol and south Gloucestershire who do not have coronavirus symptoms are able to access PCR tests at the three sites, which opened at 9am on Sunday.

More than 2,000 tests were carried out on Sunday, with hundreds of people arriving for testing throughout Monday.

South Gloucestershire Council said there were reports of “lots of people” arriving for a test on foot and needing to queue for up to 45 minutes.

The authority urged people to “wrap up warm and be careful of any ice” or consider coming back at another time, as testing is due to be available for two weeks.

It also warned of hour-long queues in cars leaving the site and began turning people away from the back of the queue at 3pm, an hour before testing was due to finish.

Sara Blackmore, director of public health at South Gloucestershire Council, said there had been “great uptake” from people in the area.

“The purpose is to help find and detect any other mutations that we’ve identified in South Gloucestershire and Bristol,” she said.

“We’re testing asymptomatic people from those defined areas and ensuring that we stay on top of the spread of the virus. It’s really important that we do that.

“We’re testing a large number of people. They’re having a PCR test, which is the same kind of test that people have if they have symptoms.

“That’s followed up by some genome sequencing which allows us to identify whether there are any further cases of that particular mutation that we’ve already seen in south Gloucestershire and Bristol.”

Coronavirus testing
A member of testing staff retrieves a completed kit (Ben Birchall/PA)

Last Tuesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 11 cases of the mutated variant had been identified in the Bristol area.

It was classified as a “variant of interest” at the time, but on Friday a national body of experts advised that it should be considered a “variant of concern” and surge testing implemented.

“When we were informed of that, we immediately initiated all of the work that needed to happen across Bristol and south Gloucestershire to ensure that we had these sites up and running,” Ms Blackmore said.

Testing will also include the rollout of mobile testing units, locations where people can collect and return test kits, and the delivery of test kits to homes in some specific areas.