Key worker forced to take 100-mile round trip including ferry for Covid-19 test
A key worker who was forced to take a 100-mile round trip including boarding a ferry to the Isle of Wight for a coronavirus test has described the system as a “mockery”.
The NHS Covid-19 app has been sending residents in Hampshire and Surrey to the Isle of Wight test centre – while directing islanders to take the same trip in the opposite direction.
Martin Baker, a technical trainer who lives 50 miles away from the Isle of Wight, in Farnham, Surrey, said he developed a cough and fever on Monday morning.
Mr Baker, 49, drove to his workplace in Southampton to pick up key items from a distance so he would be able to isolate and continue his job from home, while also knowing there was a new test centre “200 metres away”.
But the NHS Covid-19 app told him the nearest site where tests were available was on the Isle of Wight.
The Department of Health has since confirmed the app directs users to test centres using their home postcode, not their current location – though the Southampton Airport test centre is located between Mr Baker’s hometown and the Isle of Wight.
Mr Baker told the PA news agency: “Despite being within visual distance of the test centre in Southampton, I was directed to go to the Isle of Wight.
“So of course, even though it’s a free test, I still got lifted with nearly £100 in ferry fees for the same-day return.”
Mr Baker added that he was forced to mix with other passengers on the ferry’s deck because they were not allowed to stay in their cars during the 45-minute journey.
He described the system as an “absolute shambles”, adding he spent the journey attempting to stay as far away from other people as possible, and thinking that his family would be worried about him.
He said: “The surprising bit for me, was when I got to the test centre, there were two other cars in there, both of which had come over on the same ferry as me, so I wasn’t the only one coming over from the mainland.
“The woman at the testing site asked how far I’d come from, and told me she knew two people that day that were going from the island over to the mainland to have their tests done on the same day, while there’s three cars going the other way.”
This follows further testing issues on the south coast, as the Southampton Airport site where Mr Baker had thought he could get a test was also at the centre of confusion last week.
The site was set up to replace a Portsmouth centre without this being communicated to residents. The Tipner drive-through centre was packed up overnight and ahead of schedule to make way for a Brexit lorry park.
Speaking about that move, Portsmouth City Council’s health cabinet member Matthew Winnington said the Government urgently needed to “get a grip” on testing on the south coast.
He told the PA news agency: “(Residents) shouldn’t be using public transport while they have symptoms, but what the Government website is saying is that they have to.
“It’s just not good enough, and it really gives me concern about what other things we haven’t heard about with regards to the pandemic.”
The Health Department has been contacted for comment.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2020, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.