No walk-in, drive-in or postal coronavirus tests are available for people suffering from symptoms of the disease in England’s ten outbreak hotspots, it was claimed today.

Swabs are not available in Bolton, which is fighting the largest outbreak of the virus in the country with an infection rate of 192 cases for every 100,000 people.

The Government website where testing slots are booked also shows there are no tests available in Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester, according to LBC radio. 

When postcodes in each area are put into the testing system it allegedly comes up with the message: ‘This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later.’

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon today accused the UK government of trying to limit the number of slots available for testing in Scottish mobile and regional test centres.

She said the Health Secretary had made the request after telling her a ‘demand issue’ had led to a reduction in test availability.

Those trying to get tests in the ten UK hotspots are being greeted with this message, according to LBC radio

Those trying to get tests in the ten UK hotspots are being greeted with this message, according to LBC radio

Those trying to get tests in the ten UK hotspots are being greeted with this message, according to LBC radio


Britain’s coronavirus response is being led by a ‘Dad’s Army’ of well-paid people with no experience, two leading scientists have said as they called on Number 10 to stop panicking and scrap the controversial ‘rule of six’.

Professors Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, from Oxford University, accused Boris Johnson of making a series of ‘catastrophic’ errors since returning to work in April, following his own battle with the killer virus.

They said the country’s pandemic response has suffered because it has been led by Government officials inexperienced in controlling public health.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, they pointed out, has had the job for only two years; chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty was appointed in 2019; Boris Johnson was elected last year; and the Joint Biosecurity Centre – created to fight the Covid-19 pandemic – is run by a spy.

Professor Heneghan and Professor Jefferson warned the government’s new move to limit gatherings – which came into force today – was ‘disturbing’ and had ‘no scientific evidence to back it up’. They argued that it may instead end up having ‘major consequences’.

And in urging ministers to carry on with life because containing the spread of Covid-19 is ‘unrealistic’, they warned the ‘roll of the dice’ to crack down on large gatherings may tip the public over the edge and said it should be ‘binned’.

Gatherings of more than six people have been made illegal in a bid to stem a surge in coronavirus cases, which experts have warned is on the verge of spiralling out of control. Under-12s are exempt from the rules in Wales and Scotland.


LBC’s Westminster correspondent Ben Kentish said that when they tried to get tests in any of the ten areas, they were not offered one.

‘The government testing website simply says the service is very busy and people should come back in a few hours,’ he said. 

‘We tried to get a test in the top ten areas. In all ten they were unable to get any sort of tests in any of the ten areas.’

Coronavirus test appointments are uploaded on the Government’s testing portal throughout the day, meaning those looking to book a test are advised to check back regularly.

Once each test is booked the site shows there are none available in the area at present. 

It is thought problems with processing tests in labs are leading to a backlog of samples waiting to be tested. 

The UK’s director of testing, Sarah-Jane Marsh, said on Twitter last week that the Government’s ability to process samples was at a ‘critical pinch-point’.

‘Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a Covid test at present,’ she wrote. ‘All of our testing sites have capacity, which is why they don’t look overcrowded, it’s our laboratory processing that is the critical pinch-point.’

She added: ‘We are doing all we can to expand quickly.’

All the ten areas that currently do not have a test available are listed by Public Health England as the areas of England with the biggest coronavirus outbreaks.

A spokesman for Bolton council said they are aware the Government are planning to open three new walk-in and drive-in test centres in their area so that more appointments will be available.

Matt Hancock last week accused people of trying to get a coronavirus test when they didn’t have symptoms of the virus, alleging they had seen a 25 per cent surge in demand for these cases.

He appealed for only those with symptoms to get a test, as the testing system deals with a backlog caused by ‘lab issues’.

Bolton has been put under special measures due to its outbreak, with 192 per 100,000, and pubs and restaurants have been asked to do takeaways only. The Government has said that anyone who has symptoms should get a test. 

Scotland has accused the UK government of trying to limit its test availability.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘We were concerned over the weekend that one of the ways the UK Government was trying to deal with the backlog was to restrict access to testing, and the Health Secretary managed to avoid that happening in Scotland.’

Ms Sturgeon said she has ‘serious concern’ about the testing backlog and has urged Mr Hancock to share the ‘full scale and nature of issues they are facing’ so her Government could help to try and fix the problems.

She continued: ‘There was a proposal over the weekend that the available slots at mobile testing units and regional testing centres in Scotland would be reduced and the Health Secretary managed to avoid that happening so that we retained full capacity for Scotland.

‘We have no indication at the moment that there is any significant issue in Scotland with people accessing testing slots.’

‘The issue that we do appear to be suffering some impacts from – and again it’s a UK-wide issue – is a backlog in tests being processed that is then leading to a longer turnaround time.’

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said she had ‘constructive conversations’ with Mr Hancock and her Welsh counterpart Vaughan Gething about the backlog, which she said was caused by rising demand and an ‘issue with the speed and capacity of processing the tests’. 

She added: ‘I was pleased that we managed not to have the restrictions on access to testing slots that were originally being proposed, but this is work that we need to continue because we need to try as best we can to work cooperatively and to resolve this situation.’

Ms Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a 'critical pinch-point'

Ms Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a 'critical pinch-point'

Ms Marsh said there is capacity at testing sites but laboratories processing the tests are at a ‘critical pinch-point’

Data from Public Health England indicates that the ten regions where tests are not available are the ten areas facing the largest outbreaks of coronavirus in the UK. 

The Government’s data shows that growth in testing capacity has largely stalled since mid-July, when around 350,000 tests were processed every day.

On September 10, the latest day for which data is available, show 374,000 tests were processed by labs across the country.

It comes as the UK records a sudden surge in coronavirus cases, with daily reported cases remaining above 2,000 for more than a week. 

The UK’s Department of Health has been contacted for comment. 


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