12:42PM, Wednesday 16 September 2020
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been urged to reverse the Government’s decision to turn Slough’s COVID-19 testing centre into ‘appointment only’.
Slough Borough Council announced last week that drivers can no longer turn up unannounced to the facility in Montem Car Park and must book an appointment instead.
The ban has now been extended to walk-in visitors, meaning only those with an appointment will be able to get tested for the virus.
Cllr Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows), cabinet member for health and wellbeing, wrote to the Health Secretary this week and said the rule change over virus testing was putting residents lives at risk.
Her letter said: “I’m writing on behalf of Slough's Local Outbreak Engagement Board for two reasons; to urge the government to reverse its decision to designate the testing centre for Slough as an 'appointment only' site and to raise concerns about the lack of laboratory capacity for the South East.
“This is an unsustainable situation which puts our residents’ lives at risk and hugely damages all the work that’s been done to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates in the community by the council and our partners.”
Cllr Pantelic said the importance of the testing centre in keeping positive COVID-19 cases down had been explained to the Cabinet Office during a visit to the town at the end of August.
She added the flexibility of the testing site helped overcome language, transport and technology barriers for the town’s residents, a majority of whom are in BAME groups and disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Her letter also raised concerns over laboratory capacity issues in the South East and said one resident had been asked to travel to the Isle of Wight for a test.
Slough MP Tan Dhesi has also written to Mr Hancock and warned Slough risked being placed back on the Government’s COVID-19 watchlist if limitations remain on the Montem test site.
I’ve written to @MattHancock regarding the Govt’s restrictions on local testing in #Slough.— Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP (@TanDhesi) September 15, 2020
How can this Govt warn of the dangers of a second wave of this deadly virus, yet fail to provide communities with the resources to tackle it effectively? They must take urgent action. pic.twitter.com/h6QE8Q03cx
Mr Hancock told the House of Commons yesterday the country has seen a ‘sharp rise’ in people trying to get tested, including those without symptoms.
He said the Government is having to prioritise tests due to the increased demand and it could take ‘a matter of weeks’ to resolve the issues.
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