A frustrated north-east dad has been unable to send his child to nursery – or go to work himself – while struggling to get tested for coronavirus locally.
The UK Government-run drive-in test centre, based at Aberdeen Airport in Dyce, experienced a “spike” in demand along with other Scottish sites over the weekend – meaning some in the north-east could not get local appointments for children displaying symptoms.
The online booking portal also informed anxious parents that “no more home test kits are available”.
One father, David Lawson, told the Press and Journal he has been trying to acquire a home test for his four-year old daughter for a week and was told six times that there were no kits.
He was also notified his only available test centre was in Dornoch, in the Highlands – a two-hour drive from his home.
Mr Lawson said he is now “at a loss over what to do” as his daughter’s nursery requires a negative coronavirus test before it will admit her.
He added: “The NHS states that everyone should be tested within five days of symptoms – it’s now seven days that I’ve been trying to get a test.
“On top of all this, I myself am a key worker and have not been at work since I started trying to acquire a test for my daughter.”
It is understood that the UK Government booking portal for home testing, run by Department for Health and Social Care, often halts availability of kits during periods of high demand.
The process is set up to maintain a steady flow of tests into labs and to prevent a backlog.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Test and Trace is working and stopping the spread of coronavirus and there is a stock for a number of days’ worth of tests available at any one time.
“We are increasing capacity to 500,000 by the end of October.
“Anyone with symptoms across the UK should get a test as soon as possible as well as washing hands regularly, wearing face coverings and following social distancing rules to stop the spread of the virus.”
In response to the increased demand for testing, the Scottish Government announced yesterday it would increase testing capacity in certain parts of the country “over the next few days”, including the deployment of mobile testing units.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested that a UK-wide surge in people attempting to get tested for Covid-19 was responsible for the “technical issues”.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “Over the weekend, there was a major spike in demand for testing – not just in Scotland, but we think across the UK.
“That led to some constraints on the booking portal throughout the day yesterday and that, in turn, resulted in a surge of calls to our Covid-19 helpline.
“I know this will have been frustrating for people trying to book a test, so I want to thank everyone for bearing with us as we’ve worked to address these issues.”
Ms Sturgeon announced 11 walk-in testing centres would be introduced to boost capacity by more than 3,000 tests daily.
However, asked about the availability of home testing kits, she added that there had been “pressures” on requests across the UK since the weekend.
North-east Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said: “Both our governments have said that the best way to stop any future outbreak is to identify new cases and carry out a robust system of track and trace.
“I do not see how that is possible if we don’t even have enough home testing kits available for parents and school pupils.
“It is impossible to protect both people’s lives and livelihoods by forcing large scale lockdown every time there is local outbreak.
“Ministers have had six months to make the right equipment available for when it is needed and they have utterly failed to do so.”