Half-hour slots meaningless as system fails to cope with numbers, and no separation of ‘walk-ins’ and pre-booked appointments leads to waits of hours for tests that will take days to yield results
After a quiet start this morning, at least one testing centre was overwhelmed today as Liverpool began its city-wide coronavirus testing pilot.
Local councillors reported that centres were ‘very quiet’ in the first couple of hours they were open, but by this afternoon local people were standing in long queues for hours – in fortunately fine, if chilly, weather.
The government’s coronavirus test appointment page was allocating appointments in half-hour slots and strictly warned those who booked that they must arrive on time and not be either late or early – and assured those booking that they should not have to wait more than an hour:
There was also little sign of the rapid-turnaround results the government was promising, as the booking confirmation says that two to five days is normal.
At the South Liverpool testing facility set up in a sports centre, which also had a reportedly quiet start, the afternoon saw long queues snaking across the park where the centre is located. There was no separation of those who had booked appointments and those who had turned up as ‘walk ins’ – and those in the queue who had booked reported that their half-hour slot had come and gone while they barely moved a few yards in the long queue:
So extreme were the waits that sports centre staff were coming along the queues offering chairs to those struggling to remain standing.
Military police who were marshalling the queues told the SKWAWKBOX that a mobile testing unit, which should have been parked outside to test those arriving with a booked appointment, had been withdrawn at the last minute and that this had led to bookings and walk-ins being forced into a single queue for the one testing point.
Significant numbers of people were seen leaving after waits of an hour or more with little progress toward the front of the queue.
The South Liverpool facility was exclusively for people with no symptoms, whom the government wants to test to identify asymptomatic infections. They were therefore attending voluntarily, with no indication that they might be infected and actually need a test – and many were unable to wait long enough to complete the process.
Local organisers hope the process will be able to cope once the first-day rush settles, but while there were plenty of miitary personnel on site, on today’s performance the number of those trained to actually administer tests was very far from adequate.
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