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Councillor slams 'frustrating' rule change on virus testing in Slough

The Government’s decision to ban drivers from turning up at a COVID-19 testing centre in Slough without an appointment has been labelled ‘incredibly frustrating’.

The centre has been operating in Montem Car Park since June with residents able to turn up by car or on foot for a test.

But Slough Borough Council announced this week the site will be switching to appointment-only for drivers on the instructions of central Government, despite the council reporting no operational problems locally.

The borough was only removed from Public Health England’s COVID-19 watchlist last week.

Councillor Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows), cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “The test site has been a key element of us bringing down the COVID-19 cases in Slough over the past few weeks.

“We had a spike at the beginning of August, we were put on the national watchlist, we did a hell of a lot to bring the cases down.”

“This now presents us with a set of barriers that we didn’t have before.”

People walking to the facility in Montem Lane will still be seen without an appointment if they have symptoms but residents are warned capacity is limited.

But Cllr Pantelic said making residents book an appointment posed challenges as not everyone has access to a phone, the internet or has English as a first language.

“Even though we have been taken off the watchlist, our demographics are still similar to those areas that haven’t been able to bring the spike down,” Cllr Pantelic said.

“We have larger multi-generational homes where the virus is easier to spread from young to old, we have high instances of diabetes and other respiratory diseases. It’s incredibly frustrating and it’s not a sensible thing to do because if we had been consulted we would have said no.”

Slough MP Tan Dhesi tweeted concerns over a lack of testing capacity and said constituents had been asked to travel as far as the Isle of Wight for a COVID-19 test.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS Test and Trace is working and our capacity is the highest it has ever been but we are seeing a significant demand for tests including from people who do not have symptoms and are not otherwise eligible.

“New booking slots and home testing kits are made available daily for those who need them and we are targeting testing capacity at the areas that need it most, including those where there is an outbreak, and prioritising at-risk groups.”

The spokesman added more than one million tests per week are being carried out at laboratories in the UK.

Residents can book an appointment calling 119 or by visiting www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

The council has urged residents to keep trying to book an appointment if they are unsuccessful first time around.

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