People queuing for test in new strain hotspot told kits unavailable

More than 100 queuing for Covid test in hotspot postcode are told to ‘come back tomorrow’ because accurate PCR tests to find South African strain of virus have not yet arrived

  • Southport residents queued for test after South African strain found in the area
  • But staff at test centre said they could not test for new strain as kits unavailable
  • Council says tests should be ready by tomorrow and teams will go door to door 
  • It comes as Government urged those in affected areas to get tested in bid to find asymptomatic patients as new strain appears to be spreading in communities

Around 100 people queued for more than an hour in the rain while waiting for a Covid test – only to be told the kits to check for the South African variant had not arrived.

Staff told residents that only the standard lateral flow testing kits were available which are less accurate than the PCR testing kits and cannot identify the South African variant.

One member of staff at the testing centre in Splashworld said: ‘We haven’t got the tests for the South African strain yet but we are hoping to start testing tomorrow.’

Southport is one of several areas in the UK where the new strain of coronavirus has been found, along with Bristol, Liverpool and parts of London. 

The Government has launched an effort to swab 80,000 people in the eight areas of England where cases of the variant have been discovered, to stop it from spreading further. 

People living in the PR9 postcode are being urged to get tested as soon as possible, with door to door testing set to place.

Following that advice, long queues of people rushed to get tested at Splashworld, which is offering SMART testing.

Pictured: Around 100 people queued in bad weather to be tested for the South African variant in Southport only to be told the correct kits had not yet been delivered to the testing centre

But the mix-up left dozens of people who had arrived to be tested for the South African strain today feeling confused and frustrated. 

Barry Harper, 72, a retired engineer, said: ‘I saw it on the news telling everyone to come and get tested so that’s what I did.

‘I thought the new tests would be here but now we’ve been told it’s going to be tomorrow.

‘It’s annoying because I feel like I’ve wasted my time.’

Aarron Williams, 39, a builder, said: ‘I’m still working on sites and doing work at people’s houses, so I want make sure I’ve not got Covid-19.

‘This new strain is worrying but hopefully the jab will work against it.’

Southport was identified as one of several places in UK where the new strain has been found

A long line snaked around the perimeter of Splash World, in Southport, at the walk-in centre. People of all ages braved the wintery conditions while waiting for the test. 

Lesley Arthur, 55, a health care worker, said: ‘I was hoping to be tested for the new strain but have been told the kits are not here.

‘It’s busier than I expected it to be. I’ve been waiting just over an hour now and the weather is not great.

‘I just want piece of mind that I’m Covid-free so I can continue working and not pass it on to anyone else.’ 

Jacob Masson, 24, a floor fitter, said: ‘My boss rang me last night to say I needed to get a negative test before being able to work.

‘We are in and out of customers’ houses so it’s the right thing to do.

Sefton Council, responsible for organising testing in Southport, says new kits are due to be delivered today and a team to carry out door-to-door testing should be mobilised by tomorrow

‘I did come here today thinking I’d be tested for the new strain, but if it comes back negative, that’s the most important thing.

‘I’ll have to get tested for South African variant later on.’

Experts fear the strain may be able to evade immunity given by vaccines or increase the risk of people getting Covid for a second time.

Residents in the affected areas were urged to be strict with the stay home rules as the government scrambles to suppress the emergence of variant versions of the deadly disease.   

Sefton Council, which is responsible for testing in Southport, said the PCR test kits are due to be delivered today with the aim to carry out door-to-door testing from tomorrow.

Sefton’s Director of Public Health, Margaret Jones said: ‘Finding cases of the new South African COVID-19 variant and reducing the number of people who could be exposed to it is vital, which is why we are focusing testing facilities on the area and trying to make it as easy as possible for people to get tested.

In a desperate attempt to keep track of the South African variant that experts fear could effect the current crop of vaccines, health officials will carry out swabs in Woking in Surrey, Walsall in the West Midlands, as well as parts of London, Kent, Hertfordshire and Lancashire

‘Anyone over 16 within the area can go along and get tested without an appointment and I would urge them to do so as soon as possible so we can nip any spread of the new variant in the bud.’

The council said details of where a Mobile Testing Unit can be sited are being finalised and should be ready for tomorrow.

It added that a team of people to knock on doors to provide and collect home testing kits for local residents is being mobilised.

Mobile Test Units have been operating in Sefton since April with Southport’s walk-in test centre being located at Splash World.

The council encouraged key workers and people with caring commitments to visit regularly for testing. 

It was announced last night that 11 patients infected with the South African variant had no travel links, suggesting the strain could already be spreading in the community. 

People who take the routine test cannot be told whether they are carrying the South African variant, but the plan intends to find positive cases among people without symptoms in a bid to isolate them before they can infect others. 

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