Coronavirus: Senior scientific adviser says testing 'getting better' after delays in Portsmouth

TESTING is ‘getting better’ despite 14-day delays for receiving results from coronavirus swabs, Britain’s deputy chief scientific adviser has said.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 6:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th May 2020, 10:40 am

The News questioned Professor Dame Angela McLean and environment secretary George Eustice at today’s government briefing on the crisis.

Several people have waited two weeks after having swabs taken at the Tipner testing site in Portsmouth only to be told the results are unclear 14 days later. They had been promised a 48-72 hour turnaround in results.

Asked about the delay, Prof McLean, said: ‘Running a rapid and reliable testing system is an entirely operational issue. So the science advice would be: “you need to have a rapid and reliable testing system”.’

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Chief reporter Ben Fishwick at The News, Portsmouth, asked questions during the Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, May 19.

But asked by The News if Prof McLean believes the country’s testing meets that criteria, she said stopped short of saying it does.

Prof McLean said: ‘I think it’s getting better.

‘One of the things we’ve actually looked at a lot today is evidence from other countries, and it clearly is possible to set up testing systems with a 48-hour turnaround.’

Minister Mr Eustice added: ‘We do recognise that there had been a few reports of people not getting the results for their tests as quickly as they would expect, and it’s also the case that there are instances where a test result comes back as inconclusive and sometimes second tests have to take place.’

Chief reporter Ben Fishwick at The News, Portsmouth, asked questions during the Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, May 19.

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Delays at Portsmouth coronavirus testing centre in Tipner as people wait 10 days...

It comes after John Trimby, 68, a retired businessman who lives in Emsworth, and Samuel Harvey-O’Connell, 29, who is working at home in Bedhampton for SSE, both had ‘unclear’ results returned on May 15 - two weeks after their separate tests.

Mr Trimby said: ‘I wonder how long the next test result will take to come through?’

Samuel added: ‘I think for it to come back unclear when the tester carried it out rather than myself is concerning.’

He said: ‘I’m quite annoyed, not for myself, but for those more sick than I am, and those who can't work from home.’

The News also asked Mr Eustice about council leaders’ concerns over their budgets while dealing with the crisis.

They are spending more on social care - including housing the homeless - while at the same time seeing a drop in income, particularly from car parks.

Portsmouth City Council expects to see a £16m loss despite being given £12m extra funding in the crisis.

Mr Eustice said: ‘The government recognises this coronavirus outbreak has put pressure on local authorities, we recognise that, and we’ve given them an additional £3.2bn to help them cope with the new burdens that have been in place, and we’ve made available £600m to support care homes and help them respond to this crisis.

‘Yes, we recognise there are new burdens on local authorities as a result of this, and we’ve put in place some additional funding to recognise that.

‘I completely appreciate that local authorities will always say that they need further funding and in situations like this they will have funds set aside for events of this sort.

‘We think that the approach that we’ve taken with that £3.2bn injection is the appropriate intervention from government to support them in the really important work that they’re doing.’

Portsmouth’s council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘If the money doesn’t come in we will have to do really big cuts to balance the budget.

‘In our council budget this year we’re finding £1m of cuts to balance the budget. Legally we have to balance the budget each year.

‘But it means we’re going to make £16m of cuts to balance the budget and that’s more cuts than we’ve ever had.’

Libraries and leisure centres could be under the microscope if more money does not come forward.

Fareham Borough Council was initially given £33,966 in funding, a move council leader Sean Woodward calls ‘almost a slap round the face with a wet fish’.

He said: ‘If this runs on for several months we will be looking to find £3m due to increases in expenditure and drops in income.’

So far the borough council has received £1.19m in funding in two tranches.

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