With Hertsmere continuing to have a high rise of cases in the south east of England, we checked if national reports of coronavirus testing shortages affected the area.

This week Sarah-Jane Marsh, the director of the government’s test and trace programme in England, issued an apology for problems with the coronavirus testing system.

The director explained that they are working to “expand quickly” as testing sites reached capacity.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock explained there had been a problem with some contracts but assured the issue would be resolved in a matter of weeks.

Mr Hancock then said that measures had been put in place in the meantime to assure people wouldn’t have to travel long distances to get a test.

Hertfordshire County Council has confirmed that NHS England have been tasked to bring more testing into the area to keep up with testing demands following a surge of new cases in Hertsmere.

While we wait for NHS England to provide details on the number of new tests to be brought in, we put the current coronavirus booking system to the test to see how much the national issue could affect the local area around Hertsmere and Watford.

‘This service is currently very busy’

Borehamwood Times:

Throughout yesterday (September 9) the coronavirus testing page would display a message to try again later, before even reaching the section to select a testing centre.

The page read: “This service is currently very busy. More tests should be available later. If you cannot book a test now, or the location or time are not convenient, try again in a few hours.”

The site also warned for users to not call helplines, as this would only strain government services and tests cannot be booked through the phone.

Periodically throughout the day, between 11.30am to 6.30pm, the same message would appear.

Between 9.30am today (September 10) until 1pm – the website kept reporting that no testing sites were found in postcodes around Watford and Hertsmere.

Borehamwood Times:

For comparison, we tried places elsewhere in the UK, and the testing centres available were also limited.

For example, in Bournemouth, residents would be asked to travel 48.6 miles away to a site in Bristol.

But in many areas around Hertfordshire and near London, centres were unavailable.

How is this affecting people in Hertsmere?

Many people have taken to Twitter to voice their complaints, as they were unable to book a Covid-19 test.

One user explained how her 12-year-old granddaughter was sent home for having a high temperature, headaches and for coughing. She said: “Day 3 attempting to get a test and we live in Hertsmere, which is reported to be a high-risk area.

“Been told after day 4 of symptoms there is no point in testing.

"So she will be going back to school with no test, no wonder it’s spreading.”

Borehamwood Times:

To test the system, I selected that I had coronavirus symptoms

Another user, @JezzaG25, questioned why their nearest available testing site to Elstree and Borehamwood was 550 miles away in Scotland.

Further claims from @Conngreg read: “My sister is a nurse, she lives in Borehamwood and Hertsmere. They have quite a spike. Can’t get a test, although she’s meant to have them weekly with the NHS She’s had none?
“This isn’t a recent problem, it’s just getting worse.”

Are centres booked out?

From observation outside many testing centres, they may appear relatively empty despite the booking system claiming that no centres are available.

But laboratory processing issues are being blamed for the scarcity of testing centres.

As Ms Marsh apologised she explained: “Can I please offer my heartfelt apologies to anyone who cannot get a COVID test at present. 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. We are doing all we can to expand quickly.”

Borehamwood Times:

The service said they are experiencing high demands

During the prime minister’s questions yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson argued that the growing demand for tests due to “public confidence” has contributed to the shortage.

He said: “It’s obviously a function of the growing demand and the growing public confidence in NHS test and trace, that we have to supply more and more tests.”

In response to another question, he said: “The issue at the moment is that there has been a massive increase in the number of people who need or want tests, particularly who don’t have symptoms.

“And we need to prioritise people such as NHS frontline staff, our care workers, who urgently need those tests.”

Should I book a test?

Due to ongoing shortages, NHS England is urging to only get a test if you display any coronavirus symptoms or have been asked to get tested.

The NHS are reminding people to not use the service to get a test in order to travel to another country. Alternatively, those can pay for a private test.

If you have symptoms, you need to get a test as soon as possible and within the first five days of having symptoms.

On days 1 to 4 of your symptoms, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you're ordering a home test kit on day 4, do it by 3pm.

On day 5, you need to go to a test site. It's too late to order a home test kit.

If you are not able to get a test in the first 5 days of having symptoms, you and anyone you live with must stay at home. Anyone in your support bubble must also stay at home.

To book a test, visit here.