People with suspected Covid sent to nonexistent Sevenoaks test centre

Yohannes Lowe
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

People with suspected Covid-19 symptoms were on Sunday sent to a nonexistent site in Kent, in what was seen as a further blow to England’s failing test-and-trace system.

Council officials in Sevenoaks said the address had been listed on the government website for people to arrange appointments on the national booking portal.

However, the mobile testing unit, which was meant to be introduced in response to a local rise in coronavirus rates, was not deployed to start on site today for “an unknown reason”, according to a spokesperson.

This led to reports of some people driving around the facility for up to an hour before realising it was not operational.

Related: Covid cases and deaths today: coronavirus UK map

Angie Waters, 67, whose 74-year-old husband suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was among those who had booked a test at the park-and-ride site in Otford Road.

Waters, who had developed a cough, told the BBC that the situation was an “absolute fiasco”. She said: “I thought to be on the safe side I’d better get tested, I don’t want to put him at risk. It was just a joke. I spoke to one woman who said she had been going round for an hour.”

Peter Fleming, the Sevenoaks district council leader, told the Daily Mail they had been asked by government officials to try to identify a suitable site in the area but none had been properly authorised at this stage.

When asked how this could have happened, he replied: “Appears that they were aiming for it to be open this weekend; however, it hadn’t had their final signoff. However, it still made it into the test site list.”

Kent county council (KCC) and Sevenoaks district council, which coordinated the offer of the site for a mobile testing unit, are now investigating the issue.

A spokesperson for KCC apologised for anyone who made a “wasted journey”, advising those with bookings to arrange a postal test or arrange an appointment at another venue.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are aware of an issue with an incorrect testing location in Sevenoaks. This issue has now been resolved and people are being redirected to the correct site.

“NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at the unprecedented scale of more than 270,000 tests per day nationally and we are on track to achieve capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.’’