The algorithm strikes again!

Devon people sent on 350-mile round trip for coronavirus test

Paul Greaves www.devonlive.com

People living in parts of North Devon are being told to travel to Wales to get tested for the coronavirus due to a flaw in the online booking system.

The NHS Test and Trace system is facing criticism after it emerged a person from Ilfracombe who has Covid-19 symptoms would be directed to a test centre in Swansea – 175 miles away. Such a journey could take more than three hours.

It would see them drive past centres in Taunton, Bristol and Cardiff on their six-and-a-half hour round trip.

The geographical glitch affects other coastal areas in the country with the booking system seemingly confused by water.

People in Felixstowe, Suffolk, have been directed to Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, with the Government coronavirus test booking website saying it is just 13.8 miles away.

However, the journey is 40 miles by car, taking almost an hour to get from one place to another.

And people in the region with symptoms of Covid-19 would be forced to drive past their closest test centre in Ipswich on their way to Clacton.

One person from Felixstowe who tried to book a test online told the PA news agency: “If I was travelling by boat, then Clacton would be my nearest test centre.

“I tried to book online but was only given the option of going to Clacton so I called 119. The operator got the same results.

“They told me that it is not just my region – some people in Newcastle are being directed to test centres in Scotland instead of ones in the city.

“I have symptoms so am going to get them checked out. But I can imagine that others would be put off by the prospect of two hours in the car – while driving past their actual nearest centre.”

Another example shows that a person in Gosport, Portsmouth, is directed to the test site at Chessington World of Adventures, in Greater London, rather than a Covid-19 drive-through test site in Portsmouth.

Driving from Gosport to the Portsmouth centre takes around 26 minutes for the 11-mile trip, while driving from Gosport to Chessington takes almost an hour-and-a-half for a 67-mile journey.

A person with Covid-19 symptoms in Weston-super-Mare is directed to a testing centre in Cardiff – which takes more than an hour in the car.

However, there is a drive-through testing site at Bristol airport around 25 minutes away.

Some people with a Southampton postcode are being directed to Swindon – around a four-hour round trip.

Problems with the booking system have been highlighted from early on in the crisis but it appears that glitches in the system are yet to be rectified.

Labour said it was “hugely disappointing” that the issues were still occurring and called on the Government to address the issues as a “matter of urgency”.

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