Government's Covid-19 testing website sends Portsmouth people to closed centre

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PEOPLE worried about having contracted Covid-19 were redirected to a closed testing site staffed by Army personnel not wearing protective equipment – risking a ‘breeding ground for the virus’.

The government’s Test for Coronavirus website was not showing the city’s testing centre in Tipner as open at 8am yesterday morning, instead directing suspected patients to a site in Midhurst.

A Portsmouth resident booked a test at the site, which was supposed to be in the car park of a gym in the West Sussex town.

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But when she arrived she found just two army vans, military staff without PPE, and dozens of confused people being told they couldn’t be tested at the site.

Coronavirus testing centre at Tipner, Portsmouth on July 16. Picture: Habibur RahmanCoronavirus testing centre at Tipner, Portsmouth on July 16. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Coronavirus testing centre at Tipner, Portsmouth on July 16. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The Department of Health said vehicles parked in the car park meant the Midhurst site could not open.

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It is the latest in a line of blunders. When the Tipner site opened the website gave the wrong postcode. Other people waited weeks for a result.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said: ‘There was a sign up saying “this way to Covid testing site” – but it was really bizarre.

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The Covid-19 testing centre in Tipner Lorry Park.The Covid-19 testing centre in Tipner Lorry Park.
The Covid-19 testing centre in Tipner Lorry Park.

‘There were no healthcare professionals there, and army staff were not wearing gloves or masks.

‘There was about 20 members of the army there, and people just walking around confused – the was about 80 people walking around asking if it was the right site.’

Last month, a mobile testing unit was deployed at The Grange Community and Leisure Centre in Midhurst and operated by military staff who have received specialist training.

Yesterday people hoping to be tested were told by military staff that they would not be carrying out tests because of the number of people in attendance, and advised people to visit the nearest centre in Guildford, according to the Portsmouth resident.

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She said: ‘It’s really unsafe, and it was quiet scary – I could have got it there today.

‘It was like a breeding ground for the virus.’

The Covid-19 testing centre in the Tipner Lorry Park, near Tipner Lane, was closed due to fatal crash with a car coming off the M275 northbound on Wednesday, and reopened later in the day yesterday.

A spokesman from the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘Following a traffic accident in the area, the drive-through coronavirus testing facility at Tipner Lorry Park in Portsmouth was closed.

‘A mobile testing unit was designated in Midhurst but was unable to open due to the site being occupied by non-testing vehicles.

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‘Those who attended were directed to the next closest site.’

The Ministry of Defence was approached for comment.

A Sussex Resilience Forum statement said: ‘We can confirm that due to issues at the site in Midhurst, it was impractical to set up the mobile testing unit (on July 16).

‘Members of public had removed tape and parked in the area designated to be used for the mobile testing unit, and therefore this could not be set up.

‘However, it will be in place today (Friday) for people to book testing. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

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