CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Vital Covid test, but nobody could tell us where to get it

17 September, 2020

‘How many people, infectious or not, have just given up in the face of this shambles?’

• MY wife had been trying to arrange Covid testing prior to minor (but crucial) surgery last Monday. This had to take place last Friday, September 11, or the operation could not go ahead.

We were told around two weeks before by the Covid helpline 119 that we couldn’t book that far ahead but that we would be certain of success if we just called first thing on the day we needed to take the test. No problem.

We were given the addresses of three test centres including the nearest, said to be a drive-through at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross.

We decided to check out that location by taking a stroll over there to check. Lucky we did.

There was nothing to be seen there and neither the information kiosk nor retailers at the location knew of any test centre in the area.

Eventually a security guard remembered something had been there for maybe one day in April or May (only photos, dated May 3, of a tent, a soldier and one car, are easily found online).

We then rang 119 again to clarify, only to be told that they now had no information about Coal Drops Yard but, anyway, what was certain was that there were no tests (postal, drive or walk-through) available in London. At all.

All they could advise was to keep trying the government website.

We then noticed that where the online form for a test had earlier listed “surgery” as one of the reasons for needing a test, this option had now vanished.

Further contact with 119 elicited the advice to just pick another reason, such as “I am a key worker”. Or lie, in other words. That got us nowhere either since the website folded that Monday afternoon.

The hospital concerned, which had been totally engaged all day Monday, eventually picked up the phone on Tuesday.

They were then quickly able to provide a phone number for a test centre, apparently linked to this hospital, at a London sports facility previously unmentioned by anyone, who immediately gave my wife an appointment for Friday as required.

My son and I, who thought it wise to also get tested since we all live in a small flat, visited one of the other originally advised centres.

There we found, on the same day we were categorically told that no tests were available, they were happily testing anyone who wandered in.

How come the government’s helpline seems unable to reliably advise which test centres can offer drive-through tests or walk-in tests without an appointment? Or indeed test centres which actually exist!

We feel we had a lucky outcome. But how many people, infectious or not, have just given up in the face of this shambles?

CHRIS H
King’s Cross
Full name and address supplied

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